PALATKA, Fla. – Police are investigating after three people were shot, two of them fatally, in a pair of shootings reported a few miles apart over the weekend in Palatka, authorities said Monday.
About 10:30 p.m. Sunday, a man was found shot dead inside a white Chevrolet Malibu on North 24th Street, where it had been parked for several hours, according to the Palatka Police Department.
The police department confirmed that shooting is being investigated as a homicide, and detectives are looking into whether it might be linked to a separate shooting reported a couple of miles away.
In that case, a man -- who was identified by relatives as 26-year-old Jontae Merritt, of Hastings -- was shot to death at a home on Belmont Drive in the Rolling Hills neighborhood.
“I’m just loss for words. I can’t believe it. I really don’t believe it,” said Shontrea Calloway, Merritt’s sister. “He was trying to get his life back together. He got a job and was working on trying to get himself together and then this happens.”
A woman who lives nearby said she heard a few gunshots around 11 a.m. Monday. She said she didn’t know where the shots were coming from, only that she needed to protect her child.
“I grabbed her and ran to see if I could see anything outside,” said the neighbor, who News4Jax has chosen not to identify for her own protection. “By the last gunshot, I dropped to the floor and stood down until everything calmed.”
Police are questioning two people in that case, one of whom was shot in the leg and suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Officers said they are cooperating with the investigation.
Detectives are trying to figure out how the three people involved in the Belmont Drive shooting knew each other.