A 24-year-old Apalachicola man has been charged with two counts of attempted murder following a Friday afternoon fight that sent three men to the hospital with gunshot wounds.
Sheriff A.J. Smith said Austin Phillip O’Neal, who fled the scene following the early afternoon shooting at 139 Martin Luther King Boulevard, turned himself in to the county jail early Saturday morning. He is being held without bond.
After receiving a call reporting gunshots about 12:23 p.m., deputies from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and Apalachicola Police Department arrived to find Phillip Barry O’Neal, 47, father of Austin O’Neal, on the floor of the home with gunshot wounds to the hip, Smith said.
He was transported to Weems Memorial Hospital and then to Bay Medical in Panama City. Smith said Phillip O’Neal was released from the hospital and is not facing charges.
“He just got caught in the crossfire,” he said. “He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Merchant Everitt Bunyon, 41, who had a gunshot wound to the back, had fled the home and broke into a neighboring house which was unoccupied, Smith said. Officers found Bunyon lying on the floor and he was transported by ambulance to Bay Medical.
Smith said detectives interviewed Bunyon Monday, and saw no reason to charge him in the incident.
Dolores Robinson, who takes care of the house for her sister, said Bunyon, her nephew, told her that he had been shot by O’Neal.
Smith said it is too soon to know how many gunshots were fired, and by whom. “We’ve recovered no weapons, and no casings so it makes me think it’s a revolver,” he said.
Police believe Austin O’Neal may have been involved in a gunfight with a second shooter, Lataska “Bo” Harris, 35, who also fled the home.
Smith said Harris was able to hitch a ride to Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf in Port St. Joe. He suffered a gunshot wound to the hip and was transported from Sacred Heart to Bay Medical.
Smith said Harris was released from the hospital and that authorities planned to seek a warrant for his arrest. He was out on bond for a drug sale charge at the time of the incident.
“All we can do is speculate about the cause (of the incident),” said Smith. “Nobody is going to admit they were fighting over drugs.”
He said a large amount of cash was recovered from the scene, as well as a quantity of marijuana that indicated it could be for possible sale.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement sent forensics experts to examine the house.
“We live in a different world, we’re in a different time,” said the sheriff. “People use different means to settle arguments and disputes now.”