MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A former University of Miami football player who had ongoing issues with Bryan Pata is now accused of killing the Hurricanes football star 15 years ago.
Rashaun Jones of Lake City was arrested in Ocala with the assistance of U.S. Marshals, the Miami-Dade County Police Department and the state attorney’s office announced Thursday afternoon.
Jones, 35, is a former Hurricanes defensive back. He will face a charge of first-degree murder, authorities say, and is awaiting extradition to Miami-Dade County.
Pata, a Miami native and promising defensive lineman, was fatally shot in the head execution-style on Nov. 7, 2006, in the parking lot of his apartment complex in Kendall after he returned home from practice.
He was 22 and would have turned 37 last week.
Pata’s killing had been one of South Florida’s most infamous unsolved murders.
Jones was identified as a possible suspect in an ESPN story in November but he hadn’t been charged. ESPN reported that Jones previously dated Pata’s girlfriend.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said Pata and Jones had “ongoing issues.”
“Through numerous interviews, police learned that Pata allegedly had previous ongoing issues with football teammate Jones,” her office said in a news release. “Pata was much larger physically than Jones and it was learned that allegedly Pata had previously beaten Jones during a physical altercation. Additionally, about two months prior to the homicide, Pata had told his brother Edwin that Jones had allegedly threatened to shoot him in the head. Despite Edwin’s plea that Pata immediately report the incident to then Head Football Coach Larry Coker, Pata did not make such a report. During the investigation, it was learned that Jones made threats to other individuals, often with the alleged use of a small caliber firearm described as a .22 or .38 caliber weapon.”
The state attorney’s office says police interviewed Jones twice and that both times Jones said he was at home on the night Pata was shot.
However, investigators say data from Jones’ cellphone placed him in the area of the killing, which took place at the Colony Apartments at 9315 SW 77th Avenue.
“Investigators obtained data records for Jones’ cellular telephone which revealed that on November 7, 2006, at 6:41 p.m., Jones’ cellular telephone was allegedly utilizing a tower located at 7200 SW 87 Avenue, Miami, Florida. Pata’s homicide occurred at approximately 7:00 p.m. The distance from the location of the cell site to the homicide is 2.2 miles or 7 minutes away,” Fernandez Rundle’s office said. “Additionally, at 7:40 p.m., Jones’ cellular telephone was allegedly utilizing a cellular tower located at 6781 SW 72 Street, Miami, Florida. A coincidental eyewitness in the area at the time of the shooting allegedly identified the suspect in a photo lineup.”
JONES (#38) CAN BE SEEN IN THE VIDEO BELOW AS TEAMMATES HONORED PATA:
Police say tips from the community were crucial in the arrest.
“I can tell you that we could have never [made the arrest] ... without the community’s help,” Det. Juan Segovia of the Miami-Dade Police Department said in a video posted on social media. “Not only did the family never give up, not only did the family never stop fighting to figure out who killed Bryan Pata, but the community never stopped contacting us. Even if we got 1,000 tips but only one of them was the one that put all the pieces together, that’s what it took. And that’s exactly what happened in this case.”
Pata, who stood 6 feet 4 and weighed 280 pounds, was remembered as a gentle giant with a big smile and the ability to play in the NFL.
His family has been waiting years to find out who killed him.
“You know, we (are) waiting so long to find the answer: who killed my son,” his mother Jeanette Pata said in a 2017 interview.
After the arrest, current University of Miami football coach Manny Diaz said he spoke with Pata’s brother Edwin, who is now the assistant director of recruiting for the program.
“It has been a very emotional 15 years,” Diaz said. “They are thankful for the people responsible for securing the arrest.”
Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez wrote in a tweet: “For nearly 15 years, our Homicide investigators have relentlessly searched for the murderer of Bryan Pata. They take great pride in their work ethics as they always represent their victims. Today, along with [Fernandez Rundle], we brought justice to his family and our community.”
In a statement, Fernandez Rundle said: “The Pata family has waited a long time to see the individual they had believed involved in Brian’s death arrested and charged. While the time needed to build sufficient evidence to ethically charge in a homicide can sometimes feel endless, families should know that the passion and determination of police and prosecutors to resolve unsolved cases does not diminish. The commitment of the Miami-Dade Police Department and of my prosecutors and staff to bring the alleged perpetrators to justice never diminishes.”
Segovia said the case was complicated because Pata didn’t have many enemies and wasn’t in trouble with the law.
“His whole world revolved around football and his family,” Segovia said. “It’s not like he had a lot of enemies. He wasn’t involved in the criminal element. He was a young man who was looking forward to a future in the NFL. That’s all he wanted to do was play football in the National Football League. He wanted to take care of his family one day.”
MURDER CASE SOLVED - Segment 4— Miami-Dade Police (@MiamiDadePD) August 19, 2021
MDPD Homicide detectives, with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals, have arrested Rashaun Jones in connection to the 2006 murder of Bryan Pata. Thank you investigators for helping us bring justice to the family. pic.twitter.com/s8QoyHVf96
Reporter Roy Ramos contributed information to this report.