86ºF

Man shot, killed in Northside home was UNF employee

Jacksonville police canvassing Northside neighborhood for witnesses, clues

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man shot and killed early Wednesday morning while confronting someone at the front door of his Northside home worked as a longtime information technology engineer at the University of North Florida.

Police identified the man as Jonathan Wesley Brenton, 48.

Police were called to VC Johnson Road at 2:50 a.m. after shots were fired in a home. The home is on a dead-end road north of Dunn Avenue. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said a family of three was inside the home when an alleged gunman broke into the home.

Witnesses said there was a commotion at the front door before multiple shots were fired. The man was found dead inside his home.

An email about the incident sent to UNF faculty said Brenton was a senior IT network engineer who had worked at the university for more than two decades.

"Joe was a valued employee who served in a number of roles during his 21 years at UNF,” wrote Jeff Durfee, director of networking, systems and security. “He was instrumental in building the early network and server infrastructure at UNF and continued to architect the campus network until his untimely departure. He will be sorely missed.”

The university released a statement about Brenton's death Wednesday:

The UNF community is saddened by the news of  Joe Brenton’s passing as he was a valued employee here for 21 years. He was instrumental in building the early network and server infrastructure at UNF and continued to architect the campus network until his untimely death. Our heartfelt prayers and thoughts go out to his family and friends.” 

Police said they are working to determine how many people were involved in the shooting and do not have a description of the gunman.

Detectives interviewed the wife and daughter, who were in the home during the shooting. Officers are investigating whether this was a random attack or whether the shooter knew the family.

Officers canvassed the neighborhood to see if there may be surveillance video to use for more evidence.

"We are asking anyone in neighborhood who saw anything to call the Sheriff's Office or Crime Stoppers," said Sgt. Michael Paul.

The number to call is 866-845-TIPS.

Neighbor Emmanuel Anderson said that since this is a long, dead-end street, whoever is responsible must know the area.

"My parents woke up this morning, and my father’s a retired (police) officer," Anderson said. "If you’re called in here, there’s no other way you can go. So, as far as that goes, I feel like in my mind, (it) is someone that’s in the area or has visited homes in the past."

One neighbor, who moved into the neighborhood a few months ago, told News4Jax that he was unaware that anything like this had happened there.

"With any luck, it's not random," Chris Ingles said. "My wife is obviously upset. She's still not over the vulnerability factor of living out here. We're trying to work past that, but this isn't helping at all."

Details in injunction may be reviewed by investigators

Hours after police were called to the scene, information began to surface about incidents involving Brenton's family members that detectives will use as part of their investigation. 

News4Jax learned that Brenton's wife had two protective orders, filed on behalf of their daughter, against one of their neighbors who lived about a mile away. 

VIDEO: Injunction details could lead to motive

"These injunctions were issued in the past couple of months. The detectives are going to use that as an investigative tool," said Rhonda Peoples-Waters, a Jacksonville attorney not involved in the case. 

According to the injunction, the neighbor walked into the Brenton's home and stole the daughter's Xbox in January.

Six months later, the injunction said the same neighbor went to the home of the daughter's boyfriend and took eight bags of heroin and threatened to beat up Brenton's daughter.

The injunction also cited threats and stalking, which are all reasons why Peoples-Waters said detectives will review injunction extensively.

"Anytime you have allegations of drugs, then that's just a whole different path that the detectives can use. And that means they will use that as evidence to say, 'OK. Is this a possibility that these persons were also involved in this murder?'" Peoples-Waters said. 

Peoples-Waters said investigators will continue piecing together possible motives to figure out who would have a reason to shoot and kill the man who was a father, a husband and a respected employee at UNF. 

"And, unfortunately, maybe they weren't coming after the father. Maybe the purpose was just to rob the house, to get back at maybe some stolen drug money. You just don't know. And so, those are all of the things that the investigators now have to dig into," Peoples-Waters said. 

Earlier Wednesday, News4Jax stopped by the home of the neighbor named in the injunction, who was visibly shaken when she heard the news of Brenton's death. She said the protective orders involved past issues and she had no idea why the family would be attacked or robbed. 

 


About the Authors: