JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - Jacksonville Beach police are investigating the early morning shooting death of a beaches man on 7th Avenue North.
Police said 23-year-old Leon Bennett, of Atlantic Beach, was shot just before 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
According to Cmdr. Tommy Crumley, Bennett and several men got into a fight outside on First Street. Police released video of that fight in the hope that the suspects can be identified.
Crumley said that after the fight, Bennett was walking along First Street when he was approached by several men in a white four-door vehicle. Police said Bennett was then shot by one of the people in the car. He was taken to a local hospital but did not survive his wounds. Police said the car drove off heading west on 7th Avenue North.
Loved ones shocked by the loss said Bennett will be missed.
"He was the most giving and amazing young man that anyone would have encountered," said Rhonda Kelly, Bennett's mother.
Kelly also said her son was a father of two who will be missed by her and his large family.
"He had a 2-year-old and a 5-month-old, and he was an amazing father. He was generous. He was good to everybody," Kelly said.
Bennett's mother said he was shot and killed at the end of a night out with friends and his girlfriend.
"I just can't believe that someone would do such a thing over an argument. They took somebody away from two children, and they didn’t even get to know him yet because they are 2 and 5 months old, and they will never know him," Kelly said. "All we can do is show them pictures now, and talk about him and remember him."
Bennett's stepfather, James Phillips, said he was outgoing and generous.
"He's a wonderful, wonderful young man and (to show) what his character is, he pushed one of his friends out of the way, so that person didn’t get struck, so that goes to show you what type of man he was, and it’s just sad," Phillips said.
A witness told New4Jax that she called 911 after she heard people arguing and then at least two gunshots. The witness said she then heard a woman, who was with a man, crying and screaming. The witness also said she saw police perform CPR on the victim.
"Someone was just shot outside, literally right across me. I heard arguing, three shots, then a woman screaming for help. 911 (operators) told me to stay inside. This was right outside my window," said witness Hank Watson as he recalled the gut-wrenching scene. "I went outside, of course, but I couldn't tell if the shooter was still there. I was instructed to not help; it's really hard to not help in a situation like this."
Phillips believes the man who killed his stepson will be found.
"I look at it like this, it will come out eventually. You will get caught plain and simple. It’s going to happen, guarantee it," Phillips said.
Police said the shooter is a man in a white, four-door sedan. Several other men were also in the white sedan at the time of the shooting.
If you have any information that could lead detectives to the killer, you're asked to contact Jacksonville Beach Police at 904-270-1661.
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