State Attorney Bill Eddins announces that on November 30, 2020 the First District Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and sentence of Walter Ramone Ford for one count of Second Degree Murder with a Firearm, two (2) counts of Attempted Second Degree Murder with a Firearm; and one count of Discharging a Firearm within 1000 feet of a person. Ford was convicted in a jury trial in Santa Rosa County, and on October 22, 2018 was sentenced to three (3) concurrent life sentences without parole for the murder Thomas Leon Buckhalter, Jr., and the attempted murders of Ashley Johns and Jermun Nairn. Attached to this release is the opinion issued by the Appellate Court.
On February 4, 2017 Ford and his co-defendants Dedric Davis and Kyhem Johnson jointly participated in a drive-by shooting at 6630 Applegate Street in Milton. Johnson was the driver, Davis was the front passenger, and Ford was the rear passenger. The vehicle belonged to Melissa Pocopanni, and she occupied the rear driver side seat. People were congregated around a fire in the backyard of the Applegate address, and witnesses saw the vehicle drive by once before it circled back around the block. Multiple shots were fired by Ford and Davis from the front and rear passenger side of the car into the crowd of people. Thomas Buckhalter died from a gunshot wound on the scene, Jermun Nairn was shot once in the foot, and Ashley Johns was hit several times in the stomach.
One witness testified that Davis admitted his participation in the shooting and specifically detailed the event. Ford was present and involved in the conversation; but neither admitted nor denied his involvement or the detailed accounting of the incident. Pocopanni testified in the trial that both Ford and Davis fired handguns from the windows of the vehicle, the former a revolver and the latter a semi-automatic pistol. A firearms expert confirmed that casings and projectiles located on the scene were consistent with her testimony, and verified that at least two guns had been fired during the incident. A photograph posted to Facebook shortly before the incident featured Ford holding a semi-automatic pistol and Davis holding a revolver. The guns themselves were never recovered.
Davis and Johnson were tried and convicted by the same Santa Rosa County jury as Ford. Dedric Davis was sentenced to three (3) concurrent life sentences without parole for Second Degree Murder with a Firearm and two (2) counts of Attempted Second Degree Murder with a Firearm, and a concurrent 30 years in state prison for Discharging a Firearm Within 1000 feet of a Person. His conviction and sentence were affirmed by the First District Court of Appeal on December 18, 2019. Kyhem Johnson was sentenced to life in state prison without parole on one count of Principal to Second Degree Murder and concurrent 30-year sentences on each count of Principal to Attempted Second Degree Murder. His conviction and sentence were affirmed by the First District Court of Appeal on June 29, 2020.
Pocopanni was subsequently tried and convicted by a Santa Rosa County jury on one count of Principal to Second Degree Murder and two (2) counts of Principal to Attempted Second Degree Murder. On January 29, 2019 she was sentenced to life in state prison without parole on the murder charge and concurrent 30 year sentences on each of the attempted murder charges. Her conviction and sentence were affirmed by the First District Court of Appeal on October 2, 2020.
A copy of the affirmation is attached to this press release for review.
For further information, contact Assistant State Attorney Amy Shea at 850-595-4243.