Police: Cyclist shot, killed at Emerson Street & St. Augustine Road

Witnesses say they heard multiple gunshots before man found dead in road

By Colette DuChanois - Web producer, Erik Avanier - Reporter, Allyson Henning - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A bicyclist was killed Thursday afternoon at Emerson Street and St. Augustine Road, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.

There are flowers on the ground near where police say 50-year-old Damon Rothermel was shot to death.

Police haven’t shared any possible suspect information but are still asking for information from the community.

A witness said she heard numerous gunshots then ran out of her office to try to administer first aid to the man.

"Once I got out here, there was a man lying in the street," Jeanni Hill said. "I tried to help ... It was obvious he did not survive."

Witnesses said when the shots were fired, it sounded like a gun battle between two parties in separate vehicles.

"There were two exchanges of firearms shooting at each other," said a witness who wished to remain anonymous. 

Witness Hamed Zia added, "I just heard a noise and there were different kinds of fire."

The Sheriff's Office crime map shows there have been two batteries, a carjacking, an armed robbery, two burglaries and 10 petit theft cases reported in the last four weeks within a half-mile radius of Thursday's deadly shooting. Shootings are considered rare in the community. 

"You do not hear gunshots on a daily basis," Hill said.

A second scene was located about 2 miles away near University Boulevard and Auburn Road in the Lakewood neighborhood. Police said they recovered a vehicle there, and discovered a person suffering from injuries inside the vehicle. That person was transported to a hospital. It's unclear whether that scene is related to the shooting. 

Detectives continue to investigate.

Relatives say Rothermel was an innocent victim caught in the crossfire. They say the Navy veteran had just celebrated his 50th birthday the day before the shooting. His family tells News4Jax they’re still numb from the news and shaken by the senseless gun violence.

JSO’s crime mapping tool shows within the last six months, there have been 18 violent crimes within a half-mile radius of where the shooting happened, including 15 assaults and three robberies.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500. To remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS (8477).

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