Pasco County Deputies arrested a Land O'Lakes man for shooting a stranger in the face with a pellet gun in a Walmart parking lot. A surveillance camera caught the crime and tips generated from media coverage helped detectives find the suspect, 25-year-old Daniel Quinnell.
"I'd say within 45 minutes last night of it airing – the phone was lighting up," said Detective Lisa Schoneman, of the Pasco Co. Sheriff's Office Major Crimes Unit. "Their concern was that he not harm anyone, he not be harmed, or officers not be harmed."
Deputies found Quinnell at a local hotel where he was staying.
"We walked up…he put his hands behind his back. He said ‘yeah, I'm the guy you're looking for,'" Schoneman said as she quoted Quinnell. "[He added] 'I'm the one that shot that guy' and he said ‘that's the problem with the World: Muslims are taking over.'"
Investigators booked him into jail on aggravated battery charges. Investigators are seeking a hate crime designation which would mean tougher sentencing if Quinnell's convicted.
"I asked him why he did what he did," Schoneman said. "He said that he was having a bad night, he was lonely, it was [after] New Years. Somebody had narrowly struck him while he was walking to Walmart. When he was walking out, he thought this couple may have been the car that almost struck him. When he realized that the individual was – he thought – Middle Eastern decent – was with a ‘white girl' … this made him very angry and he snapped."
Around 3:06, he started following the victim, a 24 year old and his girlfriend, back up to the front of the parking lot near the store. Investigators believe Quinnell shot his pellet gun more than 20 times, hitting his victim in the face and neck.
Quinnell told investigators he destroyed the gun after the incident happened and that he carried a pellet gun because he had a record and couldn't carry a real gun. He told deputies he used CO2 cartridges to fire.
"Half an inch lower – he would've got my eye," said the victim, who wanted to speak anonymously because he's concerned about his safety. "Time stood still pretty much. All I remember is just the barrel, getting hit, and getting away from it."
The victim said he has a concealed weapons permit and had a .45 caliber gun but never pulled it out.
"I just held restraint…realizing after I felt my body, I didn't have holes or was bleeding out so I pretty much held restraint on it and just let him run off," he said. "I couldn't find … the hate. Even now – I can't find it. I couldn't take his life."
According to witness statements, Quinnell said "(the n-word) with a white girl" as he pulled a handgun from his jacket.
"No matter what racial slurs…no matter what he said and how many times he kept shooting at me I just couldn't find the … hatred," the victim said. "It puzzled me to have him hate someone so much that he doesn't even know."
The victim is a U.S. citizen whose parents were from Trinidad. Doctors will remove pellets from his head and neck Monday.
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