Thanksgiving holiday weekend turns deadly in DeLand house party: 2 shot to death; internet news outlet denied police incident report

DeLand police respond to home where two people were killed by gunfire / Headline Surfer2 shot to death in DeLand / Headline SurferPhotos for Headline Surfer / Above is the house in the 800 block of Valleydale Avenue in the Spring Hill section of DeLand, where shots rang out Saturday night during a large party. One person was dead when cops arrived and a second died Sunday morning while hospitalized with gunshot wounds. A rthird gunshot victim remains hospitalized.
 
By HENRY FREDERICK
Headline Surfer

DELAND, Fla. -- The DeLand Police Department is investigating an apparent shooting at what was described as a "large party" in a house in the 800 block of Valleydale Avenue where one person was pronounced dead on scene when DeLand cops arrived shortly after 7:30 p.m. Saturday and a second person died after multiple transports to the hospital overnight, a city spokesman said.

A third victim apparently was in the hospital for gunshot wounds as well, but was expected to survive.

As many as 100 people may have been at the party, witnesses said ion various media reports. 

"Officers responded shortly after 7:30 p.m. Saturday to reports of shots fired in the 800 block of Valleydale Avenue," DeLand city spokesman Chris Graham said in a press release Sunday morning. "One person was pronounced dead at the scene; the other gunshot victims were transported to an area hospital. One of the victims died at the hospital. Detectives are still investigating the cause of the shooting, but it is believed to have occurred at a large party. No further updates are anticipated tonight and more information will be released when it becomes available."

The press release didn't specify the gender or age of the victims or possible suspects. Nor did it explain how police became involved and what may have caused gunfire to erupt.

Headline Surfer asked for the police "incident report" which is a document that summarizes what happened, but Graham said it was not available. 

WFTV ch 9 Orlando news crew gets nothing from DeLand PD on double homicide shooting / Headline SurferFox 35 Orlando news crew gewts no information from DeLand PD regarding double homicide shooting / Headline Surfer

Reporters from WFTV Ch. 9 and FOX 35 went to the DeLand police station for information, but got nowhere with police, according to their media reports on the double homicide.

Headline Surfer wasn't the only media outlet denied information on the double homicide shooting. TV camera crews from Orlando that went to the DeLand Police Station seeking information were not given any information other than three peope lwere shot and two of them were killed in a house party in the 800 block of Sunnydale Avenue.

When pressed for details as to why this public record was not being released in a timely fashion, considering there were scant few details to begin with, Graham said he was out of state and that DeLand PD's PIO, Sgt. Chris Estes, was out of town. "I don't have access to the report," Graham said in a brief phone call. 

Florida statutes are clear that police incident reports are public record. The report could have been redacted to withhold information that is pertinent to an ongoing investigation, but not the entire report. Municipalities that withhold records are required by state statute to cite the exemption in writing to the requestor.

Simply stating it's "under investigation" is not a legally sufficient grounds to withhold the report. "That's a stall tactic cop shops use to get all their ducks in a row," Headline Surfer wrote to Graham. "According to the Florida statutes, you MUST provide me with a legal reason why the report is 'exempt' and you must do so in writing otherwise it needs to be released immediately." 

Graham asked Headline Surfer to call him, which it did, during which he explained he was in Georgia and did not have access to the incident report.

He said the soonest the report might be available is Monday morning.

Chris Grahan/ DeLand City spokesman / Headline SurferWhen pressed for details as to why this public record was not being released in a timely fashion, considering there were scant few details to begin with, Chris Graham, shown here at left, said he was out of state and that DeLand PD's PIO, Sgt. Chris Estes, was out of town. 

"I don't have access to the report," Graham said in a brief phone call. 

Florida statutes are clear that police incident reports are public record. The report could have been redacted to withhold information that is pertinent to an ongoing investigation, but not the entire report. Municipalities that withhold records are required by state statute to cite the exemption in writing to the requestor.

Simply stating it's "under investigation" is not a legally sufficient grounds to withhold the report. "That's a stall tactic cop shops use to get all their ducks in a row," Headline Surfer wrote to Graham. "According to the Florida statutes, you MUST provide me with a legal reason why the report is 'exempt' and you must do so in writing otherwise it needs to be released immediately." 

Graham asked Headline Surfer to call him, which it did, during which he explained he was in Georgia and did not have access to the incident report. He said the soonest the report might be available is Monday morning

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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet in Daytona Beach, Florida, via HeadlineSurfer.com. Specializing in breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most experienced reporters with dozens of journalism-industry awards.

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