Khyler Edman, was hailed as a hero by relatives and neighbours.
“It was a senseless crime,” Sheriff Bill Prummell of Charlotte County told a news conference.
The sheriff said that last Thursday afternoon, police received reports of burglaries and numerous calls about a suspicious person who appeared to have been stabbed in Port Charlotte.
When they responded, the wounded person initially fled, but was caught about 15 minutes later. A resident identified him as a burglar, police said.
The suspect, Ryan Clayton Cole, 27, had stab wounds on his hands and side when he was taken into custody, the sheriff said. Police believe that Cole and Khyler were involved in a violent altercation inside Khyler’s home, and that the teenager succumbed to his injuries.
Police canvassed homes in the area after arresting Cole and saw signs of forced entry at Khyler’s house, the sheriff said. They discovered his body inside. A cause of death was not released.
“It appears that the suspect had broken into this residence, a violent encounter ensued where we believe that the teenager was trying to protect the home and protect their younger sibling,” the sheriff said.
His five-year-old sister was unharmed. Supporters set up a fundraising webpage to help cover funeral expenses and try to move Khyler’s mother and sister into a new home.
One of the organisers wrote on the page that the five-year-old, who has not been publicly identified, had witnessed the altercation. The family could not be reached for comment and they have asked for privacy, police said.
Khyler’s relatives, classmates and friends gathered at an emotional vigil on Sunday night, local news outlets reported.
“When he protected his sister, he became a man that day,” a former classmate told NBC2 News. “Not a lot of people would do that.”
Cole was charged with theft, burglary and violating parole. Additional charges were pending, in consultation with the local state attorney.
Cole was a familiar figure to police officers, had a history of drug use and was on probation, the sheriff said. Booking records show he has been arrested more than 20 times since 2011 and has served time on drug and theft charges.
The New York Times
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