“He was a sweet, caring boy”: Mother of July 4th shooting victim speaks

One person is dead, another is in the hospital, and a suspect is in custody after a shooting last night in DeFuniak Springs.
Published: Jul. 5, 2023 at 7:47 PM CDT
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DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - As investigators work to learn more about the shooting in DeFuniak Springs July 4th, which left one dead and one seriously injured, the community is grieving.

The family of the victim who was killed is left devastated, wanting answers.

Police have not yet released the names of the victims, but NewsChannel 7 spoke with the victim’s mother. She said the death of her son David, who was only 20 years old, is leaving a hole in the hearts of many.

“He was a great boy,” Jenny, the victim’s mother, said. “He’s a daddy, he’s got a three-year-old daughter and an almost one-year-old son. He’s got 5 sisters and one brother. He always made everyone laugh. He’s a sweet, caring boy.”

She said the other victim of the shooting, whose current health status is unknown, was David’s best friend.

“They were like brothers, they even look like twins, you couldn’t tell them apart from the back,” Jenny said.

As the family is left wondering how this happened, investigators with the DeFuniak Springs Police Department said they are carefully combing through evidence, talking to and searching for more eyewitnesses, and looking at every moment of the incident since they got the first 911 call.

“Around 6 p.m. on July the 4th, we received multiple calls about a shooting that was occurring around the Beef O’ Brady’s area and there’s a complex there,” DeFuniak Springs Police Lieutenant Richard Black said. “There was apparently an argument, there was a confrontation, and then they reported there was a shooting.”

Lieutenant Black said as soon as units arrived on the scene, they immediately began treating both of the victims, and talking to witnesses about what had happened. He said after getting a description of the suspect, Walton County Sheriff’s deputies, who were assisting the police, saw the suspect walk into a Walgreens just down the street.

WCSO deputies were reportedly able to arrest the suspect without incident. Black said deputies did find a firearm on the suspect, and they are doing tests to determine if it was the same one used in the shooting.

The suspect has been identified as Sipho Bennett, 32, from Tennessee. Black told NewsChannel 7 they learned Bennett has been in the DeFuniak Springs area for a while but had not changed his residence to Florida.

Lieutenant Black said now what they are searching for is a motive.

“We hope we can find the cause of this and prevent it in the future,” Black said. ”This is actually kind of a shock to our community. We’ve had incidents in the past where there’s been shots fired or something. But as far as an incident like this, it’s very rare. And we hope it doesn’t happen again.”

David’s mom told NewsChannel 7 no matter what led up to her son’s death, she will never stop fighting for justice.

“I will be at every court date making sure he gets what he deserves,” she said.

If you have any information about the shooting, no matter how small, authorities ask you please call the DeFuniak Springs Police Department at (850) 892-8513.