Florida sheriff: Three young men ‘massacred’ during a fishing trip. Victim was able to call dad and say “help”.

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FROSTPROOF, FL — Three men were murdered at a lake where they were planning to fish, and the local sheriff described the scene as a “massacre.”

On Friday, Brandon Rollins, 27, Kevin Springfield, 30, and Damion Tillman, 23, went to a local lake for night fishing, and one or more individuals fatally beat and shot the friends, according to USA Today.

Sheriff Grady Judd is calling the “massacre” of three young men during a fishing trip one of the worst murder scenes he’s witnessed in his career:

“It’s about as far out in the middle of the woods as you can get. It’s a peaceful area. There’s a beautiful lake where three very close friends were going fishing last night.”

Judd said Damion was the first to arrive at the lake, and investigators believe he was murdered as soon as he arrived by one or more individuals.

As Tillman was being murdered, Rollins and Springfield arrived in a separate vehicle, and detectives believe they were killed immediately in a shooting:

“Here’s what the murderers didn’t count on,” Judd said. “One of our victims, Brandon Rollins, was able to call his father and say, ‘help.’”

Judd said Rollins’ father knew his son was fishing with his two friends and drove to the lake after answering the call.

Upon arriving at the scene, Rollins’ father found his son barely alive and his two friends dead.

Judd said Rollins was able to say a few things to his dad before he died, which the sheriff’s office didn’t release at the morning briefing.

The sheriff also would not say whether the murders were targeted or random.

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“One or more murderers that killed three people in a little country community,” he continued. “A very safe, very quiet community. Murdered them while they were on their way to go catfishing last night.”

Describing the “quiet, quaint” community surrounded by groves, forest and cattle ranches, Judd said the murder scene area was deep into the woods.

“This is a horrific scene. I have been to a lot of murder scenes in my life and this ranks up with the worst of them,” Judd said. “They were viciously murdered.”

Rollins’ girlfriend, Jessica Steenson, demanded justice:

“I want justice for him and I will not stop until he gets it.”

Judd said there is a $5,000 reward for anyone who has information that leads to the arrest of the murderer(s) in the case. Few details are being released at this point of the investigation, but anyone with information about the killings is urged to contact Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 863-298-6200.

Last year in August, we reported on a triple-murder suspect who was captured in Virginia.

A naked 19-year-old triple murder suspect is now in custody after being pepper sprayed and tased by police on Tuesday morning.

Reports indicate that authorities received a 911 call around 8 a.m.  The caller reported a body had been found at a residence on Keeling Drive in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.

When officers arrived on scene at the home on Keeling Drive, they found three deceased individuals that included two women and one child. One victim was found outside on the ground in the driveway, and the other two were located inside the house.

Sources say that an individual who was visiting the neighborhood had spotted the body in the driveway and made the call to report it to authorities.  

The main suspect in the attacks was 19-year-old Matthew Thomas Bernard.  (Author note: Some news outlets are reporting that Bernard may be 18 years old.)  Bernard reportedly lived in the home with, and possibly is related to, the three victims. 

Bernard was not at the home when police arrived, and it was reported that he fled into the woods near the scene. 

A BOLO [Be On The Lookout] was issued to officers patrolling in the area searching for Bernard, with his description. Authorities also released a description of Bernard to news stations and advised residents to be aware and on the lookout for him – explaining he should be considered “armed and dangerous.”

K-9 officers were brought into the area to search for Bernard in the wooded area near the home. Witness statements released stated that Bernard was last seen in blue jeans and a white shirt. It was also reported that Bernard had a rifle with him.   

Witnesses explained that Bernard ran out of the woods and towards a media staging area, which was close to the crime scene. Bernard ran directly towards an officer who took out his pepper spray and used it against Bernard.

Florida sheriff: Three young men ‘massacred’ during a fishing trip.  Victim was able to call dad and say "help".

He then ran around the officer several times in a circle after being sprayed, making several attempts to charge at the officer.

It is reported that after Bernard was sprayed with pepper spray by the officer, he ran through a media staging area and then he took off running into a nearby parking lot. 

In that parking lot, police say Bernard was seen attempting to choke an elderly church employee who was trying to get into his vehicle.

Florida sheriff: Three young men ‘massacred’ during a fishing trip.  Victim was able to call dad and say "help".

When police caught up to Bernard, an officer struck him in the arm with his baton to break his hold on the elderly man.

Bernard then took off running again down the street and right into a grouping of officers where he was again pepper sprayed and tased. He was placed in handcuffs, taken into custody and then transported to a nearby hospital for treatment. 

The Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference explaining that they would not release the names of the victims until family or next of kin could be notified.  Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor went on to explain that the victims’ bodies would be transported to the Roanoke Medical Examiner’s Office, where they would attempt to determine the cause of death through autopsies.

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