An emphatic Sheriff Rick Staly late this evening took to Facebook Live to broadcast a warning against anyone who may be planning a retaliatory hit on the perpetrator or perpetrators of the shooting death of 16-year-old Noah Smith on a Bunnell street Wednesday night. (See full video below.)
Speaking from the Real Time Crime Center at the county courthouse, the sheriff also announced that his agency was taking over the investigation from the Bunnell Police Department. Bunnell’s city manager this morning said Bunnell was the lead agency. But the city did not issue any official information–not even so much as an acknowledgement that there had been a shooting and a killing–until almost 24 hours after the incident, when the city administration issued a brief release.
But even that release appeared inaccurate, contradicting what the sheriff would say an hour later: “The Investigation Section of the Bunnell Police Department is responsible for conducting thorough and objective investigations of all deaths that occur in City of Bunnell.” The release included a Bunnell number for tips, though the Sheriff’s Office was directing tips to its own set of numbers and email. The confusion appears emblematic of the frustration local law enforcement has had in responding and cooperating with Bunnell on the case.
In his statement, the sheriff summarized the incident on Wednesday night–the Sheriff’s Office’s and Bunnell Police’s response, the death of Smith, and Staly’s offer for help. This morning he said Bunnell had requested one detective. Later in the day, “Chief Snead contacted me and formally requested the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office’s Major Case Unit take the lead on this investigation,” Staly said, referring to Brannon Snead, the acting police chief until Jan. 24. “I’ve directed my team to take over the investigation and we are working around the clock to solve this senseless killing, which took this young man’s life.” (Calls to Snead went unreturned today.)
The shooting took place on South Anderson Street in Bunnell just after 10 p.m. Wednesday, involved several people firing up to and possibly more than 20 shots, one of which struck Smith in the abdomen. He was transported to the hospital immediately after the shooting in what may have been his father’s car. A vehicle at the scene believed to have had occupants with guns fled the scene. Law enforcement in Volusia County was mobilized for a search in the Ormond Beach area while law enforcement in Bunnell conducted an air and ground search for suspects. No one was in custody this morning, nor did the sheriff refer to any arrests this evening.
His concern, at one point almost verging on fury, was vigilantism.
“We are also aware that certain individuals have threatened retaliation against the possible perpetrator, and are planning to take matters into their own hands,” Staly said. “While we share your anger and frustration, further bloodshed will not bring Noah back. We ask that you let our detectives do their job and investigate this properly so that Noah’s family can have justice without further violence. Let me be crystal clear on this: we are deploying extra patrols throughout the county. There will be a zero-tolerance policy regarding any retaliation.”
He asked for patience, and said the agency was investigating leads and seeking help from the community.
“We need your information and help in solving this case. This is the best way to honor Noah and his family,” issuing another warning against retaliation. “We’re making every resource available to solve this case, and we are working hand in hand with State Attorney’s investigators and the Bunnell Police Department to bring this murderer to justice.”
The investigation is ongoing and active and as information becomes available, the agency will update the community, the Sheriff’s Office said. If you have any information about this incident, please contact the Flagler County Sheriffs Office by calling 386-313-4911, emailing [email protected], or calling CrimeStoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS. Reports may be anonymous. You may be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000.