Garrett Hughes. CONTRIBUTED

A year ago this week, the small Key West community was shocked by a rare instance of gun violence. A single shot fired left one family grieving and another fighting a first-degree murder case.

Garrett Hughes died at Lower Keys Medical Center in the early-morning hours of Feb. 13, 2023, after being shot in the abdomen outside the now-closed Conch Town Liquor & Lounge, 3340 N. Roosevelt Boulevard hours after the Kansas City Chiefs had defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in last year’s Super Bowl.

He was 21, and by all accounts, intoxicated, but minding his own business in the parking lot behind the bar when another local — the man whose family owns the building that housed Conch Town — approached him while he was urinating outside. 

Hughes was a standout athlete who later coached young kids in football and lacrosse, and part of a new generation of Conchs earning a living on the water by fishing. Everyone seemed to know his family. He is survived by his parents, Lesley Touzalin, and John Hughes and his wife Tiffany. 

“A year later, and I still can’t believe you’re gone,” John Hughes, the Key West High School football coach, posted on Facebook on Feb. 13, the one-year anniversary of his son’s death. 

“The holidays, birthdays and the major life events you missed this year hurt like hell,” John Hughes wrote. “But it is the everyday moments where your loss is felt the most! Simply put, I miss my boy!! I love you Garrett, always have and always will.”

As always, Key West has stepped up and rallied behind Hughes’s family. 

Mike Stack performs April 8, 2023, at a memorial concert at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater, honoring the life of Garrett Hughes, whose photo hangs as a backdrop on stage. GWEN FILOSA/Keys Weekly

Local rapper Mike Stack, a friend of Garrett’s, organized a benefit concert on April 8, 2023, that raised more than $50,000 to start a scholarship fund to honor the 21-year-old.

More than 2,000 people attended the concert. Stack and a host of musicians performed. When Stack launched into his “I’m From Key West” island anthem, people crowded to the stage to dance and cheer him on. 

Stack performed against a backdrop of a giant poster of Garrett Hughes smiling down. He led the crowd into shouting out Garrett’s name in tribute. After the show, Stack said he could feel his friend’s hand on his shoulder the entire time. 

Shooter fighting the charges

Meanwhile, Lloyd Preston Brewer III, 58, from the moment he dialed 911 as Hughes lay shot in the parking lot, admitted he had shot the young man. But his defense is that he felt threatened. Charged with first-degree murder, Brewer remains locked up at the county jail on Stock Island without bond. 

The latest trial date on the docket, March 18, won’t happen, according to Joe Mansfield, chief assistant state attorney. 

Depositions of witnesses are ongoing and a motion from Brewer’s defense team to force Judge Mark Wilson off the case remains on appeal, after Wilson denied it. 

“There’s just more work to be done,” Mansfield told Keys Weekly. “It’s not going to go to trial until later in the year.”

Hughes was unarmed and shirtless when he was shot while urinating on the wall of the next-door building after Super Bowl Sunday. In security camera footage, he stands alone facing the wall between two cars. 

The video shows Brewer walking across the parking lot toward Hughes, interrupting him and then firing a gun. Prosecutors say Brewer carried a concealed weapon into the bar that night and also pointed the gun at one of Hughes’s brothers. 

Brewer’s next hearing is set for Tuesday, March 5 at the Freeman Justice Center, 302 Fleming St., Key West.

“It’s frustrating to say the least because the evidence is the evidence,” Garrett’s mother Lesley Touzalin told Keys Weekly. “It should be over and done with.”

Touzalin will continue appearing at courthouse hearings, waiting out the murder case.

“I feel like everybody knows our struggle,” Touzalin said. “We have to continue. We have to keep our faith strong and believe justice will be served. You’ve got to continue living, right?”

Gwen Filosa
Gwen Filosa is The Keys Weekly’s Digital Editor, and has covered Key West news, culture and assorted oddities since she moved to the island in 2011. She was previously a reporter for the Miami Herald and WLRN public radio. Before moving to the Keys, Gwen was in New Orleans for a decade, covering criminal courts for The Times-Picayune. In 2006, the paper’s staff won the Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news and the Public Service Medal for their coverage of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. She remains a devout Saints fan. She has a side hustle as a standup comedian, and has been a regular at Comedy Key West since 2017. She is also an acclaimed dogsitter, professional Bingo caller and a dedicated Wilco fan.