Gun fight in Palatka: Man claimed self defense, other shooter held without bond

PALATKA, Fla — On June 4, officers with the Palatka Police Department responded to 6710 St. Johns Avenue due to the report of a person being shot.

When Officers arrived on scene, they made contact with Phillip Bryant 31 of Palatka. Bryant informed the officers he had shot at Semaj Atkins, 21 of Gainesville Fl.

According to Bryant, Atkins had come to his residence and knocked on the front door to his apartment. When Bryant opened the door, he immediately observed a black colored pistol in Atkins’ hand.

Bryant told officers Atkins then pointed the pistol at his face. Bryant pushed the gun away and closed the door to the residence. Bryant retreated to his bedroom to retrieve his own firearm.

As he ran, he stated that he heard the sound of gunfire behind him.


Bryant discharged his firearm multiple times toward the front door of the residence as a means to protect himself and his children. Bryant then looked outside of his bedroom window to see if Atkins had left.

However, when he looked outside, Atkins fired at Bryant’s window. Bryant then discharged his firearm from the window toward Atkins. Atkins then got into a vehicle and left the area.

Bryant believed Atkins had come to his residence to confront him about an argument that took place earlier in the day. The residence was processed for evidence and multiple shell casings in 5.56 mm and 9mm were collected from inside and outside of the residence.

Bryant’s firearm a, AR-15 (5.56mm) was seized for processing.

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Within moments of officers arriving on scene, a Deputy from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office located and stopped the vehicle which Atkins was driving. Atkins was inside the vehicle and had suffered a gunshot wound to his upper left torso.

Atkins was transported to a local hospital for treatment. The vehicle he was operating was secured and later processed for evidence. While processing the vehicle, a 9mm handgun and ammunition were found.

Detectives later conducted an interview with Atkins. Atkins admitted to having gone to Bryant’s residence to talk to him. During the interview Atkins stated the 9mm handgun found inside of the vehicle he was driving belonged to him. Atkins told Detectives he never fired the gun and had actually left it in the vehicle.

Atkins could not explain why detectives found spent 9mm shell casings outside of the apartment door.

All of the evidence collected was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for ballistics processing.

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On October 10, 2023, FDLE submitted a report to the Police Department which outlined the findings of the ballistics testing. FDLE reported the 9mm shell casings found outside of the apartment were a match to the 9mm handgun Atkins stated belonged to him which he reported he had never fired.

The 5.56 mm shell casings were a match for the gun belonging to Bryant.

The FDLE ballistics report assisted Detectives in confirming the events of the incident as described by Bryant. The evidence supports Bryant’s actions in discharging his firearm at Atkins as a means of self-defense.

At the conclusion of the investigation, Detectives obtained a warrant for Atkins arrest for one count of aggravated assault and one count of firing a missile into a dwelling.

On October 25, 2023 Atkins surrendered himself to the Putnam County Jail. Adkins is being held without the benefit of a bond.

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