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Investigation continues into murder of Lakeland teen

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Area where 17-year-old Damarco Powell was found early Saturday. Area where 17-year-old Damarco Powell was found early Saturday.
Area where 17-year-old Damarco Powell was found early Saturday. Area where 17-year-old Damarco Powell was found early Saturday.
Area where 17-year-old Damarco Powell was found early Saturday. Area where 17-year-old Damarco Powell was found early Saturday.
Area where 17-year-old Damarco Powell was found early Saturday. Area where 17-year-old Damarco Powell was found early Saturday.
Morris Chestang has lived in his Lakeland neighborhood since 1971 and said recently its safety has become threatened. Chestang lives near where the body of a 17-year-old man was found Saturday morning. Police ruled it a homicide. Morris Chestang has lived in his Lakeland neighborhood since 1971 and said recently its safety has become threatened. Chestang lives near where the body of a 17-year-old man was found Saturday morning. Police ruled it a homicide.
LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) -

Lakeland Police are investigating whether the Saturday morning murder of a 17-year-old may have been gang related.

Police say 17-year-old Damarco Powell was found dead in a ditch east of the railroad tracks at Atline Road early Saturday morning. His mother had reported him missing only a couple of hours before.

A passerby noticed the body and alerted authorities. Police aren't saying how Powell died.

And while police aren't officially calling Saturday's homicide gang-related, they do say it's something they're looking into.

From his backyard, Morris Chestang sees people walk through the Atline Road shortcut every day.

“My son went through there for years when he was going to school,” Chestang said.

But in his more than 40 years living in the neighborhood, he's noticed lately the traffic is changing.

“It’s still a shortcut for most people. But for a few, it's an opportunity to commit some sort of crime,” he said.

The signs are clear: graffiti clutters the fencing intended to keep people out. And no matter how many times a barrier goes up-it comes back down.

It's gone from an eye-sore to a serious concern, especially after Saturday's killing.

Lakeland PD’s Sgt. Gary Gross said many suspect gang-activity led to the homicide.

“We're not saying either way- but it's something we're looking at,” Gross said.

The suspicions are based mostly off the Facebook page of the victim, 17-year-old Damarco Powell, whose photos primarily show him with guns, making signs, and showing off what appears to be drugs.

“That doesn't always mean just because a young man is dressed like a gang member or show the signs that he's a gang member,” Gross said. “Sometimes they want to represent themselves as something that they're not. We’re not going to use that as information only. We're going to dig and dig and dig,” Gross added.

That kind of police work is just what Morris Chestang wants. He hopes it will help bring back the neighborhood he remembers.

“It has been as a history very safe and quiet, however we have been slowly sliding downhill through more and more problems,” Chestang said.

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