The family of a slain University of Tampa student who was shot while trying to get into the wrong car is struggling to grasp the “senseless tragedy,” his father said.

Carson Senfield, 19, of Orchard Park, New York, had been out with friends and took an Uber to his home near campus when he tried to get into a parked car that wasn’t his early Saturday morning, Tampa police said in a statement.

The man inside of that car opened fire on Senfield and has been cooperating with investigators, according to police.

“It was a senseless tragedy that we’re still trying to figure out, but at this point, it doesn’t really matter,” the victim’s father, Darren Senfield, told NBC affiliate WGRZ of Buffalo this week. “We don’t have our Carson with us.”

Carson Senfield.
Carson Senfield.via WGRZ

No matter how the law enforcement probe ends, the father said his family will never be the same.

“To us the details play themselves out,” Darren Senfield said. “We don’t have our son. We’re mourning, we’re heartbroken, we’re devastated.”

His son had been celebrating his 19th birthday hours before he was killed.

“He enjoyed his people whether they were in western New York or his people in Tampa or if he was anywhere else,” Darren Senfield said. “He was such a generator of great vibes.”

Florida authorities have not yet publicly identified the shooter and it’s not immediately clear if he’ll face any criminal charges.

“The driver, who did not know the individual or why he was forcing his way into his vehicle, shot the man, striking him in the upper body,” Tampa police said. “The driver said he feared for his life.”

The student was pronounced dead on the scene at about 1:30 a.m., according to police. The shooter remained at the scene and cooperated with detectives.

A Tampa police spokeswoman declined comment on Wednesday and referred all questions to State Attorney Susan Lopez.

Gary Weisman, Lopez’s chief of staff, said the investigation is still weeks away from determining if criminal prosecution is warranted.

“I don’t think it’ll be soon, I don’t think it’ll be days. It’s going to take us some time,” Weisman told NBC News on Wednesday. “I don’t think you’re talking about hours or days. How many weeks? I don’t know.”

Florida has been long associated with so-called “stand your ground” laws, which offer wide latitude for deadly force if one “reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.”

The slain student was first identified as a 2021 graduate of Orchard Park High School by Orchard Park Central School District Superintendent David Lilleck.

Two of his siblings still attend that high school near Buffalo.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Senfield family during this difficult time,” Lilleck said in a statement. “Carson was a light in this world and will forever be a Quaker (the school’s mascot).”

David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

Juliette Arcodia


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