2 wanted in connection with Jax Beach murder arrested in Hawaii

Leon Bennett's family gathers at memorial after men surrender to Honolulu police

By Erik Avanier - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - Two men wanted on charges connected to last month's shooting death of a man in Jacksonville Beach have turned themselves in to police in Honolulu, Hawaii, authorities announced Wednesday.

Honolulu police said Shaquille Walker and Jose Emanuel Lebron were being held pending extradition to Florida.

The Jacksonville Beach Police Department said arrest warrants were issued last week for Walker and Lebron on charges of tampering with evidence in connection with the June 24 death of Leon Bennett. Walker faces an additional charge of carrying a concealed firearm.

According to Jacksonville Beach police, Bennett, a 23-year-old father of two, was shot to death about 2:30 a.m. as he left a bar near the intersection of Seventh Avenue and First Street.

After Walker and Lebron were taken into custody in Honolulu, Bennett's loved ones gathered Wednesday evening around a memorial at the site where Bennett was killed in Jacksonville Beach, about 4,700 miles away.

"Even though they went to Hawaii, I'm glad they turned themselves in," Rakea Pringle, Bennett's fiancee, told News4Jax.

Family members were pleased by the break in the case.

"It doesn't take away the pain or anything else," said Rhonda Kelly, Bennett's mother. "But (it's) just a sense of relief that now we can start our next chapter of getting justice."

Kelly said a family member was in contact on social media with a cousin of one of the two men who were being sought, and believes that may have helped investigators locate their whereabouts.

“Apparently, he may have shed a little too much on what may be going on over there," Kelly said. "I don’t know if that was helpful to them turning themselves in, but I’m just grateful they turned themselves in.”

Jacksonville police said several tips led them to identity Walker and Lebron.

“Tips were very paramount in this situation," said James Phillips, Bennett's stepfather. "I’m very grateful the community came out and gave whatever tips.”

No one has yet been charged with killing Bennett. But Kelly said she prays that murder charges will be filed.

"I'm pretty confident that's what's going to happen," she said. "Absolutely."

With the two men in custody, Pringle also revealed what happened the night her fiance was fatally shot. 

Moments before the shooting, Bennett was involved in a fight outside on First Street, which was caught on video. After the altercation, Pringle said she, Bennett and a female friend were walking down Seventh Avenue when shots were fired in their direction. 

WATCH: Victim's fiancee recounts night of deadly shooting

Pringle said Bennett shielded her and her friend from the gunfire.

"He definitely stepped up and saved both of our lives, not just mine. It could have been any of us. It could have been all of us. It was definitely scary to be watched and followed," she said. "To know and think this may happen and it really happened -- it's scary."

It's unclear when Walker and Lebron will be extradited to Florida. 

Copyright 2018 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.