It was Rakim Breeden’s first day on the job at an Isle of Wight County warehouse.
The 26-year-old military police officer in the National Guard had just landed the job as a temporary worker at Safeco Products, at the Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park near Windsor.
But Breeden accidentally knocked a co-worker’s cellphone off a ledge that September afternoon — damaging the phone and spurring a heated argument between him and the co-worker, 24-year-old Preston Kyle Thomas, Isle of Wight sheriff’s investigators say.
Surveillance footage shows Thomas going to his car and coming back inside. The two men were exchanging more words during a break when Thomas pulled out a gun and shot Breeden several times, the sheriff’s office says. He died en route to the hospital.
A Virginia State Police SWAT team surrounded Thomas’ apartment in Carrollton that night, but he wasn’t there. And more than four months on, investigators are still trying to track Thomas down to charge him with murder.
“Rakim didn’t bother people,” said his mother, Mary Breeden, during an emotional press conference at the Isle of Wight County Courthouse Tuesday. “I’m asking, begging, pleading that anyone who knows anything that can help in any kind of way possible, please speak up. If you know the whereabouts of Preston Thomas, please speak up.”
The reward for Thomas’ arrest has been increased to $5,000 — up from the standard $1,000, said Volpe Boykin, chairman of the Isle of Wight Crime Line. Electronic billboards are soon to be launched around Hampton Roads asking for help finding him.
“I have a personal message to Mr. Thomas,” Isle of Wight Sheriff James R. Clarke Jr. said. “Turn yourself in, and peacefully. If you don’t, we will not stop looking for you. We will find you, and you will answer to these charges of this senseless murder.”
Sheriff’s Capt. Tommy Potter said Thomas has strong ties to the Peninsula, and investigators have largely focused their tracking efforts there.
Chance Lynch, an attorney working with the Breeden family, emphasized that the killing took place while Breeden was going about his workday. “It’s not a situation that happened out on the street,” he said. “It’s not a situation that happened among gang members.”
Aside from being in the National Guard, Lynch said, Breeden also held a psychology degree from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. “Rakim was an outstanding young man,” Lynch said. “This young man was trying to provide a life for himself to assist his mom.”
Mary Breeden said she’s been recently fighting stage 4 breast cancer, and her son moved in with her in Hertford County, N.C., to help her out. “That morning when he went to work, I was prepared to ask him, ‘How was your day?’ as I always did,” she said. “Instead I get a phone call from his friend stating that he’d been shot.”
Anyone with information about Thomas’ whereabouts is asked to call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP, or to visit p3tips.com. Callers can remain anonymous and could be eligible for a cash reward of up to $5,000.
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