Winter Haven police chief calls Joshua Davis a "cold-blooded killer"

8:28 PM, Apr 25, 2012   |    comments
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WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - "He seems to be a cold-blooded killer."

That's how Winter Haven Police Chief Gary Hester describes 32-year-old Joshua Davis. He is the man police say confessed to killing Christian Rodriguez and Joe Palacios, and wounding Estaban Zavala. The three are 19-year-old students at Polk State College in Winter Haven.

Hester tells reporters in a press conference Wednesday morning, "This killer is cold, not remorseful, a straight matter of fact and straight forward about his action."

Police say the men were at Davis' apartment Tuesday night around 6 p.m. with Davis' 6-year-old daughter while her mother worked. Davis told police he and two of the men smoked marijuana outside. When they returned inside the apartment, the group sat in the living room to watch TV and that's when Davis told police he felt the need to grab his 9 millimeter gun from his bedroom.

As Davis was escorted by police into a patrol car wearing handcuffs, a reporter asked why he did it. Davis appeared to be crying as he replied, "I was scared for my family."

"The only possible motive the killer said he had a dark feeling that led him to retrieve his weapon and shoot."

Davis told police he walked into the bedroom picked up his 9 millimeter gun and started walking down the hallway towards the living room.

Hester says, "The evidence shows he executed two victims as they lay wounded, tried to conceal themselves behind furniture."

The third victim, Estaban Zavala, managed to escape after being shot several times. Police say Davis ran out of bullets and started beating Zavala with the barrel of the gun. When he went to the kitchen to grab a knife, Zavala escaped. A police officer on his way to the scene spotted Zavala staggering along a sidewalk before collapsing. He is at Lakeland Regional Center in stable condition.

"This is so bizarre, there's no sense to it, it's unprovoked. There were no drugs in the house or on the victims," explains Hester.

Hester says during his confession, Davis made it a point to tell detectives he is a marksman and frequently goes to the gun range. He also told detectives he plays a video game every day called Battlefield 3. Hester describes it as a first-person shooter  that takes the player through a series of combat scenes looking for the enemy. Hester says Davis told detectives he walked down the hallway of his apartment holding his gun in a defensive move, crouched down, as he does in the video game every day.

Police estimate Davis fired off 10 rounds while his 6-year-old daughter hid under a table. Police say she was not physically hurt.

Hester says, "This does not appear to be a heat of the moment encounter, this appears to be a cold, calculated killer who took the opportunity to execute two victims. The only reason he can give us is he had a dark feeling."

All three victims are students at Polk State College in Winter Haven. Students and staff are mourning the loss. Polk State College President Eileen Holden told a group of reporters, staff, and students this was a "vicious shooting."

Holden says, "Everyone associated with this great institution feels as we have been punched in the gut...that our hearts had been ripped out."

Holden and other staff members say the students are all successful, popular and well-liked.

"They always had smiles on their faces," says Bridget Fetter, college registrar. "They are good-hearted kids."

Kathy Bucklew says the young men were also kind. She recalls Rodriguez finding a golf cart to take her to the graduation ceremony. She couldn't walk the campus because of recent knee surgery. She says, "To us, it's all a big loss."

College officials say both students who died in the shooting had future plans. Christian Rodriguez hoped to be a nurse and Joe Palacios was pursuing a degree in Liberal Arts.

Staff and students at Polk State College in Winter Haven now pray for the quick recovery of the only surviving student, Estaban Zavala.

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