3 friends on fishing trip killed in 'massacre,' Florida sheriff says

FROSTPROOF, Fla. – Three men were fatally beaten and shot on their way to fish in a remote area late Friday night, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

During a media briefing near the scene Saturday morning, Judd identified the victims as Damion Tillman, 23, Keven Springfield, 30, and Brandon Rollins, 27. The three men had been friends for years, Judd said, adding the families of the victims gave police permission to release their names.

Judd, who has worked at the department since 1972, described the killings as a “massacre.”

“This is a horrific scene,” Judd said Saturday. “I’ve been to a lot of murder scenes in my life, and this ranks among the worst.”

According to the preliminary investigation, Judd said, just after 10 p.m. Friday, Rollins called his dad on his cellphone for help. Judd said Rollins’ father knew his son was fishing with his two friends and drove to Lake Streety Road.

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Upon arriving at the scene, Rollins’ found his son barely alive and his two friends dead.

Judd said Rollins was able to say a few things to his dad before he died, which the sheriff’s office didn’t release at the morning briefing.

Judd said it appeared that Tillman arrived first in his red pickup, and while he was being killed, Rollins and Springfield arrived in a white pickup and were shot.

“In Brandon’s father’s excitement to run to help his son, he forgot his cellphone at home. So now he is out in the middle, as you can see, of no place without any communication,” Judd said. The father drove back to the nearest convenience store to call 911 and said, “My son needs help.”

A 17-year-old girl, the daughter of the convenience store’s owner, jumped into Rollins’ father's vehicle, and the two drove back to Lake Streety Road, Judd said.

By the time authorities arrived, Rollins had died of his injuries.

“These folks appear to be beaten and shot. ... We are seeking leads. We need help, so we can solve this crime sooner rather than later,” Judd said.

He did not say whether authorities identified any suspects. His department offers $5,000 for any information leading to the capture of the killers. He said investigators believe more than one culprit was involved in the slayings.

Describing the “quiet, quaint” community surrounded by groves, forest and cattle ranches, Judd said the area was “about as far out in the woods as you can get.”

Follow Kathy Leigh Berkowitz on Twitter: @kberkowitzthel1

This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Polk County, Florida, killings: 3 friends on fishing trip beaten, shot