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Three East Alabama men charged in Florida murder

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By Alton Mitchell

The Panama City, Florida area is a quick and great getaway for many residents of east Alabama. The beachfront community located only about 3-hours south of east Alabama is home to warm Gulf of Mexico waters and welcoming white sand beaches. Those amenities did not prove enough for a group of men from nearby Auburn Sunday when a search for more left a Panama City area high school student dead and the three Auburn residents in a Florida jail.

According to information in a press release from the Bay County Sheriff’s Office a group of Auburn men and a group of students from Arnold High School in Panama City were at a local Taco Bell restaurant. The sheriff’s office indicates that one of the students purchased a “pill” from one of the Auburn men and the two groups then smoked marijuana together outside the fast food establishment.

Investigators state that the men from Auburn wanted to purchase additional marijuana and one of the students called a friend who had marijuana to sell. The suspected marijuana dealer drove to a CVS store parking lot on Wildwood Road in Panama City and met the other students and men from Auburn. The suspected marijuana dealer had two other Arnold High School students in the vehicle with them as they entered the pharmacy parking lot.

Sheriff’s deputies state the drug deal was going down in the parking lot when three of the men from Auburn produced an AK-47 assault rifle and began to batter and rob the Arnold High School students. One of the students who had rode with the suspected dealer was another Arnold High School student by the name of Jason Ian Price. Price was sitting in the suspected dealer’s car when the robbery and assault began. He exited the vehicle to assist his classmates and was shot while trying to intervene.

Deputies from the Bay County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene and found Price on the ground. Those first responders began CPR on Price in the parking lot. Shortly after EMS officials arrived and pronounced Price dead on the scene. Deputies indicate that two students and the suspected marijuana dealer remained on the scene and told deputies that the four men from Auburn had fled on foot.

Only minutes after responding officers located one of the men from Auburn along Wildwood Road after a call from a concerned citizen about a suspicious person. The three other men from Auburn were found a short time later in the parking lot of a nearby motel. Police were able to recover the AK-47. Deputies brought the four men in for questioning and arrested three. The fourth was not involved in the incident and had fallen asleep on a nearby bench at the CVS.

The Bay County Sheriff’s Office confirms the arrests of Rodney Jones, 18, of Auburn. Jones is charged with felony murder and armed robbery. Deputies also arrested Gertavious Montrez Canada, 24, of Auburn on charges of felony murder and armed robbery. The final individual arrested was Demarcus Giddens, 21, of Auburn. Giddens is charged with an open count of murder and armed robbery. Deputies suspect that Giddens was the trigger man responsible for killing Price.

In addition to arrest of the three Auburn men two other arrests resulted from the shooting. According to deputies one of the Arnold High School students was a witness to the incident and refused to open the door of a home on Thomas Drive. Investigators remained at the door for hours before obtaining a search warrant and entering the residence. The juvenile in the home was arrested as was his father who was home at the time investigators were attempting to get a statement. The identity of the juvenile was withheld, but investigators indicated the father identified as Kevin Jacobs, 46, of Panama City was taken into custody and charged with resisting an officer without violence. The same charge was placed on the juvenile at the residence.

Deputies indicate that all other witness were cooperative and assisted law enforcement which resulted in arrests being made in the murder within hours of the incident. The victim Jason Ian Price was 16-years-old and a student at Arnold High School in Panama City.