WINTER GARDEN (CBSMiami) — A man suspected in the shooting of two people on a central Florida highway is now behind bars and claims the shooting was in self-defense.
Florida Highway Patrol arrested Kwanza Jermaine Donald, 33, on Sunday.
He is believed to be the driver in the grey Toyota Camry who opened fire on a 37-year-old man and his 18-year-old niece a day earlier on the Florida Turnpike’s southbound lanes, near Winter Garden.
The victims, who reside in the Miami area, are recovering from gunshot wounds, considered to be minor injuries, officials said.
Their Chevy Impala sustained about a dozen bullet holes along its passenger side.
One of the victims, 37-year-old Dexter Bernard, lives in Northwest Miami-Dade.
CBS4’s Peter D’Oench was told by Bernard’s boss that he is a cook at the Hooters restaurant on N.W. 87th Avenue in Doral.
He said he was not sure when Bernard would return to work and said he had checked out of Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Bernard posted on his Facebook page, “Thanks everyone for their concerns. I’m alright. They tried to take me on. God had other plans. I just want to say thank you. I am recovering. I love you all. I will be alright. I am in shock and pain. I’M still breathing. Thank you for your prayers. God bless you.”
Bernard expressed surprise at the response he was getting to his Facebook post.
A close friend and neighbor who did not want to be identified said Bernard lives in a home with two of his brothers and said he could not believe what happened in this incident.
“He has never been in trouble before, that I know of,” said the neighbor. “If you tell him the speed limit is 55, you know he won’t go any faster than 56.”
The suspect did not stop and troopers said surveillance video identified Donald’s vehicle as being in the area and matching the victims’ description.
A handgun was located in Donald’s 2003 Toyota Camry.
Upon his arrest, Donald confessed to police that he fired three shots at the vehicle and didn’t know the victims.
However, he said he fired his weapon in self-defense because “someone was trying to kill him,” officers wrote in an arrest report.
He told police the victim’s vehicle resembled one that had been trying to shoot at him in Texas and Georgia.
Donald also admitted that he hadn’t had much food or sleep lately and was dehydrated.
“Mr. Donald rambled on about people trying to kill him, but could produce no viable evidence to support his claim,” the report added.
Donald was charged with two counts of attempted murder. He was held on $120,000 bond after an appearance in bond court.
In a jailhouse interview with WKMG-TV, Donald said he had received a call that someone killed his mother, who lives in Orlando. He said unknown people shot at him and he believed they were part of gangs. It turned out his mother was not in danger.
Donald told the TV station he “lost it” when he saw a lot of cars coming at him on the highway and that’s when he fired at the red Chevrolet Impala next to him.
WKMG reported that Donald seemed confused about the shooting. He said he thought it happened in Georgia and thought he was still in Texas. HE expressed remorse for the shooting and said he didn’t mean to do what he did.
FHP says it has seen no proof so far that anyone was shooting at Donald.
Donald apologized to the victims.
Bernard says he accepts his apology but says he needs to stay locked up.
“I saw him earlier apologizing on the news and I accept his apology cause I know he’s not right in the head,” said Bernard. “He has no business with no gun. He has no business out here in society. He deserves to pay for what he did. He could have killed me and my niece.”