PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A local man facing the death penalty in a Panama City mass shooting case has spoken out for the first time.
Michael Hunt is accused of shooting three people and killing a fourth person at a shooting on Allen Avenue in April of 2019.
“The truth is that I did not do it,” Hunt said. “It is clear in there all of the previous statements are inconsistent.”
In 2011 Hunt was sentenced to prison for trafficking in drugs, grand theft and living off the earnings of a prostitute. At the time he was accused of murder Hunt was living in Panama City and running a business called Polecats.
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“Polecats is a dance studio. Because of the sign, I think people passed it off as being a strip club. It’s not a strip club,” Hunt said. “It was a dance studio and we held entertainment events. we allowed people to rent out the building.”
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In September of 2018 Hunt was charged with unlawful sexual activity with certain minors. During a court hearing in April of 2019 Hunt learned that a warrant was out for his arrest. He left court and disappeared for several days.
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While he was gone four people were shot at a home in Panama City. One of them died. Hunt said he left town to raise money for a bond.
“I was going to meet with my ex to get more money. She lived in Virginia but I also went to Alabama and I went to Atlanta in order to try and get money,” Hunt said. “I figured I would need at least another five or ten thousand dollars to bond out.”
Hunt said he did not commit this crime and the victim’s boyfriend convinced her to file the charge in the sex case. He said this same man convinced the witnesses in the shooting to change their accounts of the crime.
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“She explains that she saw the culprits neither one of them was Hunt. She knew for a fact it wasn’t Hunt,” Hunt said. “Somewhere in the aftermath, it was discussed, look let’s put it on Michael Hunt. Even in the police interview, they’re saying, ‘Oh we know Mike did this but it needs to come out of your mouth.’ They’re trying to coerce her to change her statement.”
Hunt said he kicked this man and the woman accusing him of a sex crime out of his house when some money went missing. he adds that this other man may have had enemies.
“I know he has people out there that don’t like him. Nobody has investigated the fact that this guy had three people come into his house on Oct. 11. I think was after the storm and attempted to kill him so he said,” Hunt said. “Whoever he has beef with or drama with. Whatever happened with him, the first person he wants to accuse was me. Especially, after his girlfriend makes this allegation which I believe I’m sure was coerced by him according to all the documents.”
He also said that the shooting could have stemmed from a robbery.
“They were into a lot of drugs at that house. There’s is a lot going on at that residence that hasn’t been exposed,” Hunt said.
News 13 has asked for records about any incidents at the house prior to the shooting. Although those records are not yet available, law enforcement sources said that there are few if any reports about other crimes at the home.
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Hunt also says there is other evidence that proves his innocence. According to Hunt, a line up was done and the witness or witnesses could not pick him out. Police also can’t use the location tracking in Hunt’s phone to say where he was when the shooting happened.
“The second thing is that when you look at the ATT records my cellular phone wasn’t even on from three o’clock that day till all the way to the next day,” Hunt said. “My cell phone wasn’t even on at that time.”
Prosecutor Bob Sombathy sent a reponse to News 13 about Hunt’s comments.
“In order to preserve the integrity of the jury selection process I can’t comment on cases before trial,” he wrote. “As you know from the initial police briefing on this case it’s also vital this office protects confidential information regarding victims.”
Hunt is scheduled to return to court in August for a pre-trial hearing. His trial has not yet been scheduled.