PARRISH, Fla. (WFLA) – Was it a case of your stand ground where a driver claims his life was threatened? Or a case of road rage that led to murder?
That’s what Manatee County sheriff’s detectives are trying to determine regarding the death of Zachary Barnett, a father of three shot and killed over Easter weekend.
The shooting took place in a rural area near Buckeye Road and U.S. 301 in Manatee County. The sheriff’s office says Barnett and another driver came close to colliding that Saturday afternoon around 5:15 p.m.
According to investigators, Barnett swerved, causing the other driver to nearly run off the road.
That’s when the driver did a U-turn to allegedly get the license plate from Barnett.
Both men were armed, and when they came to a stop and began arguing, the other driver claims he feared for his life, so he fired his weapon, killing the 32-year-old dad.
The driver then called 911 to alert deputies.
At first glance, the sheriff’s office maintains, this appears to be a case of self-defense. However, detectives also point out this case is far from over. It’s only ten days old and evidence is still being collected for processing in the near future.
“It’s very unfortuate that someone was killed that night. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. The situation got out of control,” said Randy Warren, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.
Meanwhile, Barnett’s family is anxious for answers, hoping for more details on what led up to their loved one’s death.
“All we want is justice for Zach. That’s it. It’s not fair, it’s not fair, it’s not fair,” said Terri Wood, a close friend of the family who tells us she’s known Barnett since he was a boy.
She says this case has torn their community apart, with family and friends hearbroken over the loss of someone they love dearly.
“We loved him like one of our own. We love his family like one of our own, like they’re ours. It’s so terrible,” Wood told WFLA.
Detectives say they have a lot of work to do, as investigators work closely with the State Attorney on gathering details and evidence, piecing together those final moments before the shooting.
For now, the accused shooter remains a free man as the case is under investigation.
“We want the family to know we’re working hard on the case, and we want to provide them with more details. But, we have to be thorough and take our time,” said Warren.
Meanwhile, the family is heartbroken for Barnett’s wife and three children, now without a father and about to lose their home.
“A lot of questions, and we want answers. That’s all, we just want justice,” Wood said.
Detectives say it could be several weeks until they get more details.