Last Updated: 11:46 a.m.
Early this morning, Jamey Jahiem Bennett, 19, a former student at Flagler Palm Coast High School, was shot and killed in the area of StorQuest Express, the self-storage facility off Old Kings Road North, just past Palm Harbor Parkway.
Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly confirmed the fatal shooting and spoke at length about the incident in an interview this morning. “While we do have a killer on the loose, it’s not like there’s a killer running around that’s threatening every resident,” he said. “We’re going to solve these cases. It takes time. But we’ll get there.”
The shooting death is the third in the last five weeks in Palm Coast and Bunnell. “So far in our investigation this incident is not connected to any prior incident,” Staly said. “Again it’s still early in the investigation, but there’s no indication to that. We have not noticed any social media chatter that indicates that there’s any retaliation for this incident or connections to the prior incidents that we’re investigating.”
He said the shooting took place during a birthday bonfire at a location known as a mudhole in a secluded wooded area north of Matanzas high school that had not been the subject of prior law enforcement responses. Some 40 to 50 people had responded to a social media invitation.
The sheriff said there were indications of a motive for the shooting, but due to the stage of the investigation, he was not releasing that and other elements of the case for now.
The shooting reportedly followed an assault against a woman that Bennett may have been trying to defend. Most of the people there fled after the shooting, but authorities have several witnesses, and license plate readers were in place to capture the plates of fleeing vehicles, which went south. Those present included numerous juveniles and students from Matanzas High School.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, and issued a release around 11:30 a.m., though word of the shooting had spread on social media even before it was reported here earlier this morning.
“About 1:45 a.m. this morning deputies responded to a reported shooting in a wooded area just north of Matanzas High school,” Staly said. “Deputies arrived on scene and immediately used their trauma kit to attempt to stop the bleeding of the victim while Flagler County Fire Rescue and the Palm Coast Fire Department responded. The victim was transported to AdventHealth where he died as a result of a gunshot wound. On behalf of the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office, we extend our deepest prayers and sympathies to the victim’s parents, and assure them we are doing everything in our power to identify and locate the individual responsible for this tragedy.”
The investigation will be heavily reliant on witnesses at the scene. “We are asking parents to talk to their children,” Staly said. “If they were at this party in the woods, they’re not in trouble but we need their information and we need any video that they may have recorded before the party and after the shooting occurred that they may have recorded on their cell phone.” The sheriff is asking parents and those at the party to contact authorities at the numbers listed below, with information.
Authorities’ attempts to get the help of emergency helicopters from either St. Johns or Volusia counties were not successful. Flagler County’s emergency helicopter does not fly after 8 p.m. Old Kings Road North was closed for several hours after the shooting. The Sheriff’s Office brought its mobile command center near the scene, where it was able to conduct interviews.
Bennett, who was known as JuJu, was taken to AdventHealth Palm Coast, where he died. He had moved to Palm Coast when he was a junior in high school. He was a student-athlete at FPC, running track. He was expelled from campus following his arrest in 2021.
Bennett, a resident of Selkirk Place, was one of three people arrested a year ago after firing dozens of shots at a house on Kalamazoo Trail, possibly in retaliation for Bennett getting attacked at Wadsworth park the day before. Bennett was due in court for a pre-trial hearing Wednesday. The sheriff said it was his understanding he had resumed his education through virtual school.
Bennett’s killing is the second homicide of the year, and the third in a matter of five weeks, all resulting in the death of young Black men. Just three weeks ago, FPC Student Noah Smith, 16, was shot and killed as he appeared to have been caught in a shootout in Bunnell. On Dec. 29, Zaire Roberts, 23, was shot and killed at a house on Regent Lane.
“I’m 100 percent confident that we are going to solve this incident and the prior two, one that occurred late in 2021, and the one we took over for the Bunnell police department,” Staly said. “It just takes an inordinate amount of time. You wait for lab reports, technology reports and subpoenas to get answered by private companies. Unfortunately it’s not like CSI that you watch on TV. These things take just a long time. We generally identify our main persons of interest very quickly, but then it takes time to build the solid case that’s prosecutable by the state attorney, and we’re not going to rush these, because we want to build a solid case so someone can be held accountable and bring justice for the victim’s family. I know that the community would like them solved in 24 or 48 hours or less. Frankly we would do, but building a solid case is more important than making a quick arrest.”
If you have any information about this incident, please contact the FCSO by calling 386-313-4911, e-mail [email protected] or call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS. A reward of up to $5,000 that leads to an arrest has been offered by CrimeStoppers of Northeast Florida.