Manhunt ends: 4 in custody after killing at St. Johns County home

Deputies find man dead outside rural house; search for 4 who ran

By Zachery Lashway - Reporter/anchor, Jennifer Ready - Reporter, Crystal Chen - Assignment editor/reporter

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - The four people who ran from a vehicle stopped leaving a rural St. Johns County neighborhood where a man was found dead early Thursday are all in custody, the Sheriff's Office announced.

Deputies were dispatched to the home after a neighbor heard gunshots on Cowen Road near Green Acres Road and called 911. The Sheriff's Office said arriving deputies were passed by a white SUV leaving the area, which they stopped at the dead end of Old Tyme Avenue, but all of the occupants fled into the wooded, swampy area. A News4Jax viewer shared video of the occupants of the vehicle scattering

Other deputies who went to the home found a man dead outside. Deputies swarmed the area and a manhunt began.

Two of the occupants were captured by daybreak. A helicopter and K-9 units were called to search the area for the other two, described as men in their 20s. Dozens of deputies sealed the neighborhood and searched every vehicle leaving or entering the area. 

The Sheriff's Office asked residents to be cautious when they left their homes Thursday morning and to make sure there was no one lurking around their property. Deputies escorted school buses to pick up students in the neighborhood.

"I open my door and there were two men with rifles," Linda Powell told News4Jax she saw lawmen in fatigues outside her house. "They were standing there and I look out and there were two more a couple hundred feet, and down the road you saw the vehicle and two men."

Just before 1 p.m., Powell saw the two men who had eluded capture and called 911.

"I was sitting in my living room and I heard a sound and I looked up and three feet from the window ...I saw two men," Powell said. 

She said the were haggard "as though they had been through it" go into her shed, grab a tarp and casually walk into the woods.

"My phone won't call from in the house," Powell said. "So I went outside and called 911, and as soon as I told them, I was going back in the house and locking up."

Within minutes, she said 30 deputies converged on her yard and captured both men.

“At this time, we feel comfortable telling people that everyone is safe," Undersheriff Matthew Cline announced at 1:30 p.m. "Thank God no bystanders were hurt or injured.”

Cline said the shooting involved five people who came from Jacksonville to the home, adding that drugs were a factor, but it wasn't known if the people involved were invited to the home or they were there to rob the place. 

One of those people is now dead and the other four are in custody. Their names were not released on Thursday.

Cline said the department used every available resource to find the men and keep residents safe. Some deputies involved in the manhunt were taken to Flagler Hospital to be treated for heat exhaustion.

“There’s absolutely zero quit in the men and women out there today," Cline said.

Powell's son said he is proud of his mom's quick reaction.

"She did everything the right way, and because of that, people are behind bars and this neighborhood is a lot safer now," Junior Carter said. "To start the day, we had cop cars at every house with guns. Now, tonight, we will be nice and safe."


 

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