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WCSO asking for public's help in finding DeFuniak Springs shooting suspects

Jim Thompson
Northwest Florida Daily News

DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — The Walton County Sheriff's Office is pleading for the public's help in tracking down the occupants of a car from which more than a dozen shots were fired at another vehicle on Sunday night in DeFuniak Springs. The incident left a woman in the second vehicle wounded with what Sheriff Michael Adkinson on Monday morning called "life-threatening and life-altering injuries."

That was a change from earlier information released from the Sheriff's Office, which noted that the woman was injured significantly, but those injuries weren't at the time deemed to be life-threatening. 

The shooter or shooters in the incident, which occurred about 8 p.m. Sunday on U.S. Highway 90 in the vicinity of Fairfield Drive, remained at large as of Monday afternoon.

Investigators believe the incident was not random, but that the victim — whose name was not being released as of Monday afternoon — was specifically targeted, according to Adkinson.

Investigators also believe that someone, or possibly multiple people, saw the incident or the circumstances leading up to it. The Sheriff's Office was alerted to the shooting by a 911 call that came in at 8:07 p.m. Sunday. The caller reported hearing gunfire in the area of Fairfield Drive and U.S. Highway 90. Deputies arrived on the scene to find a vehicle with multiple bullet holes and a victim inside.

"This did not happen in an area without people," Adkinson said in a video posted Monday on the Sheriff's Office Facebook page. "There were people who should have seen this."

Authorities have been able to get some information from the victim, who told investigators that the vehicle, a dark-colored sedan, possibly with four doors, was following closely behind her, and gunfire began as the vehicle, with at least two people in it, pulled around her.

At least 14 rounds hit the vehicle, according to the sheriff.

"We need your help," Adkinson said in the Facebook video, urging people who were in the area to contact Sheriff's Office investigators with any details they might have, no matter how insignificant they might believe their information to be.

"No detail is too small," Adkinson said, as he called the shooting the Sheriff's Office's "No. 1 priority right now."

Sheriff's Office investigators currently are going through video from surveillance cameras in the area, and Adkinson on Monday was urging anyone in the area who has video, but has not been contacted by his office, to get in touch with investigators.      

"A witness at the scene reported the suspect vehicle sped off after firing more than a dozen rounds at the car and headed east toward DeFuniak Springs," a Sheriff's Office news release stated.

The victim was flown by helicopter to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center for treatment, according to the Sheriff's Office.

"The witness stated the cars were headed west at the time of the shooting," the release continued. "After the suspect vehicle stopped next (to) the victim’s car it went down and turned around firing shots as it headed back east on (U.S.) 90. The witness was unable to determine the make and model of the shooter’s vehicle."

Walton County Sheriff’s Office crime scene technicians were on the scene until the early hours of Monday morning. They collected shell casings and bullet fragments from along an almost quarter-mile section of U.S. 90 from Owens Road to west of Fairfield Drive, according to the news release.

"Anyone with information regarding this incident or anyone traveling in the area at the time of the incident is asked to call the Walton County Sheriff’s Office at 850-892-8111, or you can remain anonymous by calling Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers 850-863-TIPS (8477)," the Sheriff's Office said in the Monday news release.

Anyone whose tip leads to an arrest in the case could be eligible for a cash reward, according to the news release.

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The shooting and subsequent investigation prompted the shutdown of U.S. 90 in the area for several hours. During the shutdown, traffic was rerouted down Woodyard Road and Boy Scout Road.

The Walton County Sheriff's Office is continuing to investigate a Sunday night shooting in DeFuniak Springs that sent one person to a hospital. The shooting, in the area of U.S. Highway 90 and Fairfield Drive, prompted the closure of Highway 90 in the area until early Monday morning. The Sheriff's Office will be releasing additional information as it becomes available, according to its social media channels.