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Weekend murder raises concern

By By Adam Prestridge
Family and friends are mourning a Brewton teenager and a Florida man remains in jail following a shooting that has left lingering questions and rumors about the motive behind the crime.
Santa Rosa County sheriff’s officials on Tuesday downplayed rumors of racial problems in the Florida town, while a Brewton minister said he believes both cities need “healing” in the wake of the shooting.
According to sheriff’s reports, the incident began when Getyron Lopez “Gus” Benjamin, 18, arrived with three friends to a party at the home of Robert Franklin Floyd, 21, on Country Mill Road near Jay.
Benjamin, who was black, came to the party with three other people — one black, two white. Sheriff’s reports state Benjamin and the other black man got into a fight with Floyd, who is white. Floyd said the group from Brewton was not invited.
Floyd told deputies the other black man — not Benjamin — pulled a large revolver from his waist, and Floyd said he ran to his vehicle. The other victims in the car, however, told police no one in their group had a weapon.
Floyd told deputies, according to the sheriff’s report, that he ran to his vehicle and came back to find the car with the four Brewton residents leaving. Floyd claimed one of the victims fired from the vehicle as it was driving away.
Floyd fired five times, reports state.
Benjamin was shot in the back as the car drove away, with the bullet entering the trunk and passing into the passenger compartment, deputies said. The driver sped to D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital in Brewton, where he was pronounced dead.
No weapon was found in their car, deputies said.
Floyd has been charged with one count of open murder and three counts of attempted murder. He remained in jail Tuesday.
Santa Rosa County sheriff’s officials have said they do not believe the incident was necessarily racially motivated, and they downplayed rumors of problems in the community since the shooting.
Benjamin played football and ran track at T.R. Miller, where he graduated last year, Principal Donnie Rotch said.
Benjamin was also a student at Jefferson Davis Community College.
Brewton minister H.K. Matthews, a longtime civil rights leader, said he visited with the Benjamin family Tuesday. “They are maintaining under the circumstances,” he said.
Matthews called the situation tragic, one that “we have to be candid about and truthful about.”
While he initially was cautious in speaking about the crime, Matthews said he believes the shooting was racially motivated.
But to bring healing, Matthews said he hopes the “powers that be” in each community will reach out to each other.
Funeral services for Benjamin are scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday at Second St. Siloam Baptist Church. He is survived by his parents, Reginald and Tracie Benjamin of Brewton, and four siblings.
Staff Reporter Lisa Tindell contributed to this story.