Walmart Shooter Identified by Mother Tells Deputies He 'Just Snapped'
Daniel P. Quinnell was arrested Friday morning for what the sheriff's office is calling a hate crime.
The phones at the Pasco Sheriff's Office lit up Thursday after video of a shooting at a Walmart in Lutz was released.
Authorities say the man harassed a couple outside the Land O’ Lakes Boulevard store around 3 a.m. Jan. 2. The incident, which is being classified as a hate crime by the sheriff’s office, unfolded as a man and his girlfriend were walking through the store’s parking lot.
The suspect began harassing the couple because he believed the man was from the Middle East, according to a sheriff’s office report.
As the man and his girlfriend approached their car, the suspect came up to them and made racial slurs about the man being with a white woman, then shot the man in the head and neck with a pellet gun.
The agency had eight calls identifying Daniel P. Quinnell, 25, by name, Det. Lisa Schoneman said.
They knew he had a racially motivated agenda and they were all concerned that he remained a danger to others, Schoneman said. "They were concerned for everyone involved."
One of those calls came from Quinnell's mother.
His parents are wonderful people, Schoneman said. His mother recognized the danger and didn't want anyone else to get hurt.
Pasco detectives arrested Quinnell at a Wesley Chapel hotel early Friday morning without incident.
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He came out and said he was the guy they were looking for, Schoneman said. "I'm the one who shot that guy," Quinnell told detectives.
Quinnell told detectives he had "a bad night," he'd been drinking, it was New Year's and he was "lonely," Schoneman said.
Someone had almost hit him with their car in the parking lot earlier, Quinnell told Schoneman, and when he saw the couple, he thought it may have been them.
During the interview process, Quinnell made a variety of racial slurs, Schoneman said. He also told detectives that the shooting was not racially motivated.
"He said he doesn't know why (he shot at them), he just snapped," Schoneman said.
But his interview included a slew of racial slurs and comments that confirmed to detectives that race did play a role in the crime, she said.
"He made several offensive statements after his arrest," Lt. Eric Seltzer said.
It's not the first time local deputies have encountered the man accused of shooting at the couple with a pellet gun up to 20 times.
The Pasco Sheriff's Office has had more than 51 contacts with him in the past, Schoneman said. "He's no stranger to us."
Quinnell was also arrested in August 2011 after being accused of assaulting an elderly man. In that case, the man came to Quinnell’s apartment to notify him of an eviction. Quinnell, deputies said, then struck the man on the back of the head. Quinnell was convicted of felony battery on a person over 65 in that case, court records state.
Quinnell's arrest record in Pasco County includes incidents that date back to 2006, according to jail records.
Because the recent crime was racially motivated, the sheriff's office is seeking a hate crime enhancement to the current charge of aggravated battery, which is a second degree felony, Seltzer said.
"We are considering it a hate crime," Seltzer said. "We are taking it very seriously."
Schoneman is schedule to attend Quinnell's first appearance Friday, and will ask for the enhancement to a hate crime, in order to make the charge a first degree felony, Seltzer said.
Quinnell, a convicted felon, was carrying the pellet gun because he is not legally allowed to have a real gun, Schoneman said. The weapon, which he said he carried for protection, was destroyed and disposed of after the incident at Walmart, Quinnell told Schoneman.
Two of the bullets are embedded in the man's head and neck and will have to be surgically removed, Schoneman said.
The racial nature of the Walmart attack struck a chord with law enforcement and also captured the attention of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida. That organization posted a $1,000 reward for the capture and conviction of a suspect.
Quinnell of 2239 Tioga Drive is currently being held on $20,000 bond, according to jail records. The deputy in the case “requested high bond,” notes in the booking record say.