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Gunfire injures seven at Florida spring break party

Panama City Beach, Fla., police Chief Drew Whitman addresses the City Council during an emergency meeting Saturday to discuss the house party shooting. (Associated Press)
Panama City Beach, Fla., police Chief Drew Whitman addresses the City Council during an emergency meeting Saturday to discuss the house party shooting. (Associated Press)
Melissa Nelson-Gabriel Associated Press

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. – Seven people were injured, some critically, during an early-morning spray of gunfire Saturday at a spring break party on the Florida Panhandle, police said. An Alabama man was quickly apprehended and charged with attempted murder.

Multiple 911 calls flooded in just before 1 a.m., reporting the shootings at the house party in Panama City Beach, and deputies found a sprawling crime scene with victims inside the home, outside and across the street from it, and in the street’s median, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office said.

Officers set up a perimeter and found a suspect matching witnesses’ descriptions. David Jamichael Daniels, 22, of Mobile, Alabama, was charged with seven counts of attempted murder and jailed awaiting a first court appearance. A .40-caliber handgun believed to have been used was found in the yard of a nearby home.

Dozens of cases of beer filled the front porch of a neighboring house where loud music thumped inside. The young spring breakers renting the house said they were aware of the shooting but felt safe because it was not a random attack and the assailant was in jail.

Sheriff Frank McKeithen said a busy party full of dancing young people dissolved into “a chaotic scene.” Daniels was free on bond on a drug possession charge in Alabama, the sheriff said, and was accompanied by two others, one of whom had been recovering from a gunshot wound suffered in Mobile last week.

The two companions to the accused shooter were questioned but not charged.

At least three were critically injured. Three others were listed in stable condition.

A seventh victim was shot in the left arm, chest, and knee, and was undergoing surgery Saturday. No condition was given.

Three of the victims are students from Alabama A&M University in Panama City Beach for spring break, university spokesman Jerome Saintjones said. He said investigators in Florida told the university police department the students were innocent bystanders.

McKeithen said hundreds of people have been arrested in recent weeks in and around Panama City during its raucous spring break celebrations. The masses of college students bring a parallel migration of unsavory visitors to the area and, combined with heavy consumption of alcohol, pose a huge challenge to officers, he said.

“We have a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Eddie Tarter shares his back fence with the rental home. Tarter, who played ball with his young son in his driveway late Saturday, has lived in the neighborhood for 16 years. He said he has had problems before with loud parties at the house.

“Never anything like this though,” he said.

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