Local coach praised for protecting team after hearing gunshots nearby

Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 10:53 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Hearing gunshots where your children play can be every parents’ worst nightmare. Last week at Oakland Terrace Park in Panama City, that nightmare came true during one softball team’s practice.

“I heard something going off. I thought it was fireworks at first,” player Sierra Myers said.

For Myers, she didn’t know what to think. For Coach Casey Melton, the only thing going through her mind was making sure her girls were safe.

“I got them to safety as soon as I could,” said Melton.

Melton not only coaches the Outlaws softball team but serves as a deputy for Bay County Sheriff’s Office. She said when she heard the gunshots, her deputy instincts kicked in.

“I told my girls to get on the ground and they crawled to the dugout on their hands and knees,” said Melton.

Panama City police later arrested 14-year-old Elijia Zimmerman. Investigators said he’s charged with robbery by sudden snatching, shooting into an occupied vehicle, and attempted murder with a firearm.

“It really didn’t hit me how bad it was until I got home and saw my mom,” said Myers.

Now, one week later, the girls say they feel safer than ever knowing their coach will always protect them. Serenity Latham said she’s lucky her coach was with her during the shooting.

“I have a new respect for her as an officer and a coach and a person in general because she saved all of our lives,” said Latham.

“My coach is here and she has all her equipment to keep us safe,” said Myers.

Melton said the team was back on the field two days later.

“Once we got right back on the field and we started playing the game again, it all just melted away. They’re good now,” said Melton.

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