PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — A 37-year-old Panama City Beach man shot two teenagers on vacation killing one and injuring the other, according to the Panama City Beach Police Department.
The incident happened at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday on the sandy beach near the Shores of Panama on Thomas Drive. Witnesses staying at the condominium resort said on Tuesday that they heard the gunshots coming from the beach.
“When we first heard the gunshots, of course we thought it was fireworks,” said one witness, Dexter Smith. “When we went out to the balcony we didn’t really see much until we saw all the flashlights on the beach.”
Lt. JR Talamantez with Panama City Beach Police said when officers arrived, they saw a white male fleeing the scene. He said security guards at Shores of Panama helped officers to corner the suspect, who was taken into custody without any injuries. He was later identified as Christopher Lawrence Cox (37) of Panama City Beach, arrested and charged with an open count of murder and one count of attempted murder.
The two victims were stepbrothers from Louisville, Kentucky, both fourteen years old. Police said when they arrived on scene, one was dead and the other had sustained injuries from apparent gunshot wounds. That teen was taken to a Panama City hospital and has since been released.
“After hearing that it was a teen that got shot, you know, that could have been us,” said another witness, Julian Johnson. “That hurts.”
Investigators said the boys were on a family vacation, adding that Cox was also originally from Louisville. They described that fact as a coincidence after looking into it further.
Investigators said the survivor gave them a description of the shooter that matched Cox and that they located and arrested him Tuesday. They added that Cox made incriminating statements while he was in police custody.
Police have not yet released a motive for the shooting. Lt. Talamantez said they are doing everything they can to find out what happened and bring justice for the family of the teen victims.
“Not only as a police officer but as a father, I can’t imagine what the parents of these children are going through,” Talamantez said. “We’re treating this issue as what it is, a homicide of a 14 year old boy. We’re going to hold that person [responsible] accountable.”
In a news released, officers emphasized that this incident was not Spring Break related even though it occurred during the Spring Break season. They said no one involved in the incident was in Panama City Beach on “Spring Break.”