CLEVELAND COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Investigators in Cleveland County are trying to locate a man wanted in the 2016 death of a woman who was shot while at a party.
Antarious Qaushard Byers, 24, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Deasia Washington. He is also charged with attempted first-degree murder, discharging a firearm into occupied property causing serious bodily injury, possession of a stolen firearm, and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Byers is still on the run.
Washington was 23 years old when she was shot and killed at a party on October 9, 2016. According to investigators, Byers was trying to shoot someone else after a fist fight outside the house, but instead shot Washington who, "from all indications, he did not even know, when his shot missed its target and went through the wall of the residence."
"This is a tragic event. This young lady went to a party to have fun with her friends, and was senselessly murdered by some coward she didn't even know, who was trying to kill someone else after a fist fight," said Sheriff Alan Norman. "He is a cowardly thug who has perpetrated misery on people for years, from failing to support his children to gang-banging, now to murder."
Deputies said out of the nearly 100 people at the party, the sheriff's office got very little help in identifying a suspect.
"What surprises us is the fact that all these witnesses could not, or would not, help bring him to justice," Norman said. "I can't imagine the grief that young woman's family feels every single day, but I can tell you her father was ecstatic to learn that we charged the person who killed her."
Washington had two young sons who were only 4 and 5 years old at the time. Her family had one message for the shooter who is still on the run.
"We forgive you. Just come on in and take responsibility for what you did," Washington's aunt told WBTV in 2016. "You did it. You took a life. A mother, a sister, a daughter."
Sheriff Norman says it's only a matter of time until Byers is brought in.
"It is just a matter of time until we catch this coward. This is an example of the gang violence in our county. Among my goals for our agency is the total destruction of these street gangs that so negatively impact the quality of life for many of our citizens. We have had success toward this goal, but we are just getting started."
WBTV spoke to Washington's grandmother Friday night. She said she his happy a suspect has been identified in Deasia's case.
"I'm just glad they know who did it and I'll be even gladder when they get him," said Betty Washington.
She said the family is still grieving the loss of her granddaughter. There are multiple pictures of Deasia displayed throughout her grandmother's home.
"She meant a whole lot - a whole lot. She was a big part of this family. She's been here all her life," said Betty Washington.
The grieving grandmother is now asking Byers to turn himself in.
"Turn yourself in because they gonna get you sooner or later," said Betty Washington.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Byers is asked to call the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office at 704-484-4788. The sheriff's office is working with the FBI to offer a reward for information leading to Byers' arrest.
Anyone caught aiding him in his flight from arrest faces felony charges of obstruction of justice and harboring a fugitive.