Prom night fatal shooting near West Palm leads to first-degree murder charge for 18-year-old

WEST PALM BEACH — An 18-year-old man is facing a first-degree murder charge after a Palm Beach Lakes High School prom-night shooting left a 19-year-old dead.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office on Sept. 25 arrested Lawrence Lee Chavers Jr. in the shooting, which took place in the early morning hours of April 2 in a parking lot along Military Trail in suburban West Palm Beach, where a post-prom gathering was taking place.

According to an arrest report, the West Palm Beach teen was one of four people who approached a black Mercedes-Benz sedan in the lot near Community Drive and opened fire.

Investigators did not release the name of the 19-year-old, whose body investigators found in the rear seat of the sedan after its driver had stopped on northbound Interstate 95 near 45th Street to call for help. Another passenger received treatment for a gunshot wound at St. Mary's Medical Center, according to Chavers' arrest report.

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Chavers also faces charges of attempted first-degree murder with a firearm, shooting into an occupied vehicle, and discharging a firearm in public. Shell casings found at a shooting at a pre-prom event at Dyer Park hours earlier matched those found at the post-prom gathering. Investigators said no one was injured in the Dyer Park shooting.

Chavers is being held without bail at the Palm Beach County Jail. During the hearing on Wednesday, County Judge Ted Booras appointed the Palm Beach County Public Defender's Office to represent Chavers. As a policy, it does not comment on open cases.

In statements to investigators, Chavers denied any involvement in the shooting or that he knew the 19-year-old who died, according to the arrest report, which does not specify a motive for the incident. He also said he was nowhere near where the shootings took place, although detectives said his cellphone data indicated that he was.

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PBSO: Ballistics, cellphone data tie accused gunman to fatal shooting

Investigators said they used ballistics from the 86 shell casings they recovered from the two shooting scenes to tie Chavers to the shootings, as well as data from his cellphone and social-media accounts and images from security-camera video and license-plate readers.

From the parking lot, they recovered a total of 47 casings and determined they came from a total of five firearms. Three of those guns also were used in the Dyer Park shooting, investigators determined. Firearms recovered during a search of Chavers' residence are "consistent with firearms-related evidence from the scenes," the report said.

From the cellphone data, investigators said they found that Chavers' cellphone pinged his location from the park and the parking lot at the times of the shootings. A social-media account associated with a cellphone number linked to him also made references to the fatal shooting, the arrest report said.

Surveillance cameras recorded a Mercedes-Benz entering the military Trail parking lot shortly before 1:30 a.m. that day and leaving a few minutes later, after gunshots were fired. The car was a rental with a GPS monitoring device. Its movements that night tracked with locations recorded by Chavers' cellphone, the arrest report said.

Arianna Otero is a breaking news reporter for The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at aotero@gannett.com or on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, at @ari_v_otero. Support local journalism: Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: 18-year-old faces murder charge after prom night fatal shooting