Gainesville man slain in fracas in Ocala
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013 at 10:42 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 11, 2013 at 5:16 p.m.
A 33-year-old Gainesville man and another man were shot to death early Friday in Marion County after a fight at a local bar led to a fatal confrontation later at an apartment complex in Silver Springs.
Jeffery Blaine Scott, 33, of Gainesville, and Robert Anthony Williams, 27, of Fort McCoy, were slain shortly after midnight at 4744 NE 32nd Lane, the Serenity Apartments, in Silver Springs.
The man who shot them, identified as Eric Christopher Cowley-Bonacker, 28, of Silver Springs, has not been arrested in the slayings, as authorities believe the shootings occurred in self-defense.
Maj. Tommy Bibb, head of the Marion County Sheriff's Office Bureau of Special Investigations, said it appeared that Williams and Scott intended to do harm to Cowley-Bonacker at his home, following an incident earlier at a bar, where Cowley-Bonacker had gotten into an altercation with Williams.
Cowley-Bonacker was brought to the Sheriff's Office by detectives Friday morning. After the interviews were completed, he spoke about the episode.
"It was a physical assault," he said. "I just had to stand my ground. They weren't stopping. They just kept coming and coming."
He said the two dead men were "vandalizing my vehicle and my home," if they had just left it at that, no problem, but "they just kept coming at me. I had no choice."
According to detectives and witnesses, around midnight, Cowley-Bonacker went to Dr. B's Pub at 3602 NE Eighth Place in Ocala, where he saw Williams, with whom he has had an ongoing feud. An altercation ensued, which was broken up by personnel from the pub.
William Hedden, 27, of Ocala, who is Cowley-Bonacker's friend, told detectives that the two of them went to Dr. B's Pub and that Cowley-Bonacker saw Williams and went inside. Hedden said he suspected there would be an altercation, but by the time he got out of the vehicle to go inside, bouncers had already broken up the fight. He said they left and went to Cowley-Bonacker's residence.
Hedden said that about 15 to 20 minutes later, they saw a blue Durango SUV pull up and heard a commotion outside and came to the door. He said they saw a man slashing the tires on Cowley-Bonacker's older-model Ford F-150 pickup and also saw another man. He said he and his friend stayed inside by the door, but that he threw something at the men to try to scare them off.
Detectives said the people in the Durango were Williams, Scott, Aldea Moore, 33, of Ocklawaha, and Christopher Hancock, 29, of Prattville, Ala. Williams and Scott had gotten out of the vehicle first.
Detectives said Hedden told them that Cowley-Bonacker fired several warning shots. Hedden said at that point two other people got out of the Durango, which detectives said would have been Hancock and Moore.
Hedden said once inside the apartment, two men jumped on Cowley-Bonacker and one man jumped on Hedden.
Detectives said Jason Batten, 25, Cowley-Bonacker's roommate, joined the fracas and that all the people were skirmishing in a very small space.
Hedden said Cowley-Bonacker shot one of the two men that he was fighting with. Hedden said the man who had jumped Hedden then ran to Cowley-Bonacker, and also was shot. Hedden said he went out the back door and took off running, according to reports.
According to other people who detectives spoke with, before the shootings, Williams and Scott approached the front door and they and Cowley-Bonacker got into an altercation, which continued inside the apartment before Williams and Scott were forced outside. Williams and Scott picked up a trash can and broke the front window of the apartment and charged toward the door, witnesses said. Cowley-Bonacker, who had picked up a semi-automatic handgun, fired warning shots. When Williams and Scott continued charging forward and came inside the apartment, another fight ensued, during which they were both shot, the report states.
Rachel Preston, 24, who also was inside the apartment, was not involved.
Autopsies were conducted Friday. Detectives said Williams had been shot once in the area of the collarbone and Scott was shot once in the neck.
Cowley-Bonacker said the tiff between him and Williams was ongoing and that a few weeks ago, Williams "robbed me, a strong-arm robbery that I never reported." He said he legally owns the handgun, a .45 caliber.
Late Friday, authorities executed a search warrant at the apartment. They said they recovered six shell casings and projectiles from the floors and walls, along with blood-stained clothing and shoes and other evidence, such as the green garbage can used to smash the window.
They said that inside a safe in the apartment, they found approximately a half-pound of mid-grade marijuana. They said they did not yet know to whom the marijuana belonged.
Terrylee L. Scott, the mother of Jeffery Blaine Scott, reached by telephone, said, "I just can't believe it; I just can't believe it." After someone in the background told her to hang up, she said she was sorry but she "couldn't say anything more at this time."
Robert Anthony Williams' mother, Hellen Williams, also reached by phone, said her son has a 3-year-old daughter. She said he was a "really good kid."
Sobbing heavily, she said her son was "very loved and will be greatly missed."
She said that when her son would drink, he "had an awful temper."
Contact Austin L. Miller at 867-4118 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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