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Court Records Show Why Michael Hunt was Free During Shooting


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PANAMA CITY, Fla. - Tuesday marks five days since a deadly shooting in Panama City left one person dead and three others in the hospital with gunshot wounds.

Police haven't released much information in the ongoing investigation, but they did arrest a person of interest in the case on unrelated charges.

New 13 dug deeper to find out why this suspect and person of interest wasn't behind bars on those other charges in the first place and it turns out, the suspect, 53-year-old Michael Harrison Hunt, skipped out on an active warrant while he was in the Bay County courthouse. 

News 13 looked back to when this all began in September of 2018 when Hunt had his first appearance regarding charges of aggravated assault with a firearm and sexual assault with a juvenile. 

With a bond set at $65,000, he paid and was released from the Bay County Jail. After a court appearance in November, Hunt was back in court on April 1st. 

Hunt and his attorney, stood before Judge Patterson that afternoon for his pre-trial conference. At that time, the prosecution said they had a warrant for his arrest for additional crimes.

Hunt's attorney asked the state to double check they have the right man. "There's a couple of Hunt's. He's Michael Harrison," said Hunt's attorney.  

Hunt looked visibly nervous in footage obtained from courthouse surveillance cameras and he is seen in the video pulling out his phone to text someone. 

Judge Patterson also checked for the warrant but did not see it in his database at that time and asked Hunt to take a seat in the gallery until they figured it out. 

"Mr. Hunt if you'll take a seat, we'll see if we can figure it out and get to the bottom of this for you, sir," said 14th Circuit Court Judge, Christopher Patterson. 

Due to disturbances in the gallery, Judge Patterson cleared the courtroom. Hunt viewed exiting the courtroom into the hallway as an opportunity to flee. 

Prosecutors told News 13 that officers were on the way to the courtroom to arrest hunt. but he disappeared before they arrived. 

It wasn't until the case is revisited that day that both Judge Patterson and Hunt's attorney realize he escaped. 

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