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Florida suspect who shot Black man in the head with arrow faces hate crime charge in Okaloosa

Tom McLaughlin
tmclaughlin@nwfdailynews.com
Northwest Florida Daily News

SHALIMAR — Matthew Ross Peters had decided to kill Benny Davis when he shot him Saturday with a crossbow, and his decision was based on a racial prejudice he harbored, according to officials.

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Those findings, uncovered in the Fort Walton Beach Police Department’s investigation of the shooting, prompted the First Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office Wednesday to bolster its charges against Peters.

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He now faces a charge of attempted first degree premeditated murder with a weapon, and his actions have been determined to qualify as a hate crime, according to Bill Bishop, the chief assistant state attorney for Okaloosa County.

Davis was on his way home from work shortly after 11 p.m. Saturday when he apparently inadvertently crossed paths with Peters at a Circle K store on U.S. Highway 98 near First Street.

An arrest report states Peters left the store in a pick up truck “within seconds” of Davis departing on his bicycle.

Davis would later tell authorities that a pickup stopped as he pulled his bike to the side of the road to let it pass and the driver had fired at him with a crossbow.

The dart from the crossbow struck Davis in the head, causing significant injury determined not to be life threatening.

Arrested several hours later with a crossbow in his possession, Peters was originally charged with aggravated battery, a second degree felony that can result in a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, according to Bishop.

The attempted murder charge carries a life sentence upon conviction, he said.

“The Fort Walton Beach Police Department continued its investigation since the arrest of Mr. Peters,” Bishop said. “Further information and evidence developed do make it appropriate to charge the case in the manner we have.”

Bishop said he could not divulge the investigative findings that led to the charges being upgraded, but he did say officers have determined Peters was acting with “a premeditated intent to kill” and “with racial prejudice.”

Peters also still also faces a charge of throwing a deadly missile from within an occupied vehicle with two drug-related charges.