Volusia County

Man befriended victim, shared soda and cigarettes, before deadly shooting outside IHOP, deputies say

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — Only Channel 9 was there when Volusia County deputies took a wanted murder suspect to jail on Tuesday.

READ: Sheriff: Suspect wanted in connection with deadly shooting at Debary IHOP arrested

Deputies said Sammy McKnight befriended the victim, talking to him for about 90 minutes before he shot and killed the man.


Investigators said a tipster helped them make an arrest in the case.

The tip brought deputies and Daytona Beach police to the neighborhood where they spotted McKnight and captured him after a brief foot chase.

Knight did not say much to deputies during the interrogation or Wednesday afternoon in court where a judge ordered him held without bond.

WATCH: Man accused of murder at DeBary IHOP to make 1st appearance

Volusia County deputies walked McKight out of integration and into the back of a cruiser to be taken to jail.

Deputies said McKnight shot and killed 36-year-old James Shirely last week outside an IHOP restaurant after the two got into an argument.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said Shirely was living out of his car when he came across and was befriended by McKnight that day.

The two men talked for 90 minutes, sharing a soda and smoking cigarettes when shots rang out.

“Our shooter picks up the victim’s backpack and takes his car and flees,” Chitwood said. “We believe this was probably a robbery. We believe there may be certain valuables we have yet to recover.”

WATCH: Gunman at large after fight leads to shooting outside IHOP in DeBary, deputies say

The sheriff did not say what those valuables may be but said a license plate reader picked up the vehicle around 2:30 a.m. Saturday in Daytona Beach near Nova Road and U.S. Route 92 where it was ditched.

Inside the car deputies said they found a bus ticket with McKnight’s fingerprints on it.

Eventually a woman called the sheriff’s office after seeing McKnight’s picture on the news and he was arrested.

McKnight has served about six years in state prison on theft and burglary charges.

He was released last year and later picked up on various drug and DUI charges out of Brevard County.

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