Gunman injures multiple in Walton County, one confirmed dead

Tense moments last night and a lengthy investigation today: Gunfire in multiple places in the popular Sandestin area, and a body found dead in a burning car.
Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 6:54 PM CDT
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WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It was a dangerous night in Walton County on Thursday, leaving one victim dead and a suspect recovering in a hospital.

Deputies with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office were on a separate call around 11:00 p.m. when they heard gunshots through the rolled-down window of their patrol vehicle.

Deputies then zeroed in on the shots in an attempt to determine where they came from.

As they arrived on the scene, deputies saw a subject on foot, and that subject opened fire on one of the deputies.

Realizing he was under fire, that deputy stepped out of his patrol vehicle and opened fire.

“[Our deputy] fires once. There is a second round at least from the subject firing back at the deputy. Then at that point, the deputy fires again, and neutralizes the subject shortly thereafter,” said Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson.

The suspect is still alive and is currently in the hospital at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center.

At the same time that the deputies were responding to the gunmen, other deputies responded to a car fire near Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital.

It was discovered that there was a victim deceased in the vehicle.

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office says that they now know that the two incidents are related.

They say that the now-deceased driver of the burning car was another victim of the gunmen.

They say they have reason to believe that the victim was driving himself to the hospital for treatment when his car rolled over into a wooded lot near the hospital, causing the fire.

A separate victim of the gunman drove north to Baytowne where he called 911 and was then transported to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center.

Two other victims pulled their vehicles over just outside of the Sandestin gate and called 911.

Their vehicles were hit by gunfire, but they were not injured.

Captain Dustin Cosson says that teamwork was necessary on a night like this with multiple victims at multiple related locations.

“We split our teams into those three different areas to make sure we could collect all the evidence,” Captain Cosson said.

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office has identified the gunman as 21-year-old Gunner Cole of Warner Robbins, Georgia.

They say that he was in the area on vacation.

Deputies also say that there is no reason at all to think that Cole knew any of his victims and that it’s believed this was a random act of violence.

The Sheriff’s Office says that once Cole recovers, he will be arrested and charged with three felonies and that they fully believe that even more charges will be coming.

An autopsy is being conducted on the deceased victim of the car fire.