Lake Wales man shot dead after fight over berries

James Pennington. (Polk County Sheriff's Office)

LAKE WALES, Fla. (WFLA) – A Lake Wales man was shot dead on Thursday following an apparent fight over berries.

Deputies said 63-year-old James “Jimbo” Pennington was fixing a bike outside his home in the area of Orchid Drive and Lake Haven Drive (Indian Lake Estates) in Lake Wales when 30-year-old Devyn Martin pulled up to his property in a golf cart.

A key witness said Pennington became enraged when Martin started talking about Palmetto berries he had picked. He demanded Martin leave the property numerous times, to which Martin replied with “F— you.”

Pennington grabbed his bow and arrow and fired an arrow at Martin. He later told detectives he was aiming for his head, but missed. Martin walked back to his golf cart, grabbed his rifle and said: “You want to play this?”

The witness said the rifle was in plain sight, but he did not point it at Pennington, however, Pennington felt threatened enough to go back inside and grab his firearm.

Martin tried hiding behind a golf cart, but he was shot from 20 feet away. The witness said he cried out for help before he ultimately collapsed and died.

Pennington allegedly asked the witness to help him move the body, but the witness refused and tried calling 911 with the victim’s phone. When the phone wouldn’t pick up signal, the witness left it on the golf cart and ran to a nearby home to have neighbors the police, then he notified Martin’s girlfriend.

The victim’s girlfriend went to Pennington’s home and saw him hosing himself off outside. When she asked where her boyfriend was, Pennington said “I don’t know and I have not seen him.”

Another witness told detectives Pennington tried to jump in her pool, but she told him she had just shocked it. He ended up taking a shower at her house, and a towel with a small amount of blood was found in the bathroom. Pennington had told detectives he was wet from swimming.

In the meantime, deputies responded to the scene and found Martin slumped over the passenger’s side of the golf cart, 300 yards from Pennington’s home. He had visible gunshot wounds to his chest. Investigators believe he was dragged at one point.

Other witnesses said they heard shouting, a gunshot, and also said they saw Pennington using the same firearm the witness described at target practice.

When Pennington was finally questioned, he confirmed most of what the key witnesses told detectives about the circumstances leading up to the shooting. He said Martin had made a few negative comments about him before their argument on Thursday. He admitted to shooting the bow and arrow, but denied using a firearm and said he didn’t have any ammunition or firearms at his residence. He said he saw the victim grab his rifle, he had to get “reinforcement,” so that he wouldn’t have to worry about the victim anymore, but said the “reinforcement” used could not be located. He also said he wished he had a cannon to blow Martin up.

Detectives later found a spent shotgun shell casing in one of his garbage cans. Bow and arrows were also found inside Pennington’s residence.

Pennington was taken into custody and charged with first-degree murder, tampering with evidence, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, violation of probation.

He has previous arrests for battery, probation violation, felony criminal mischief, cannabis possession, drug paraphernalia possession, violation of injunction for protection, DUI, disorderly intoxication and marijuana trafficking.

No further details are available at this time.

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