UPDATED, Tuesday, Sept. 18:
Everett Gant of Port St. Joe died Monday night in Bay Medical Center six weeks to the day after he was shot in the head in what authorities have labeled a hate crime.
Gant, 32, had not left BMC or regained consciousness since being shot in the Pine Ridge Apartments in Port St. Joe the night of July 30.
Walton Henry Butler, 59, was arrested in the shooting on attempted murder charges with a hate crime enhancement.
Gulf County Sheriff Joe Nugent said he would sit down with the State Attorney on the exact process, but that Butler would be charged with an open count of murder.
Butler was arrainged on the new charges Tuesday.
Nugent indicated the hate crime enhancement would remain on the new charge of murder.
According to the original arresting affidavit from Nugent, an incident occurred during the afternoon of July 30 when a woman came to Butler’s apartment in the Pine Ridge Apartment complex on Garrison Avenue with a child along.
Butler, a white male, immediately used a racial slur to refer to the child.
Investigators discovered Butler had been making similar racial slurs to other children in the complex in the days leading up to the incident.
The woman became upset and left Butler’s apartment. Gant, an African-American, went to Butler’s apartment to discuss the ongoing racial comments.
Upon arriving at the apartment, Butler shot Gant between the eyes with a .22 rifle and shut his door, leaving Gant to bleed outside.
Butler called 911, finished cooking supper, sat down and began eating, the affidavit details. Nugent arrived on the scene and contacted Butler by phone, at which time Butler told Nugent to come in, that Butler was eating dinner and had put up the gun.
Nugent said Butler acted as if “inconvenienced” when put under arrest, saying he could not understand the problem as “he had only shot a (racial slur).”
Butler acknowledged shooting Gant.
The incident fueled a community outpouring of support for Everett Gant and his family, an extended family with deep roots in the community. One of his great-uncles is Paul Gant of BBQ fame.
The Lions Club of Port St. Joe immediately established and seeded an account at Centennial Bank to help the family defray medical costs.
A Facebook page, “Praying for Everett,” was put up and a candlelight vigil that drew more than 100 people to Frank Pate Park was organized within days of the shooting.
The outpouring from the community brought Everett’s mother to the newspaper office several weeks ago.
Gloria Gant, a popular teacher at Port St. Joe High School, said the community support was vital during such a trying time for the family.
“When people read about this they might think this is the most awful community,” Gloria Gant said. “But it is not. This is the warmest, most generous community and we can’t thank everyone enough for their support. We would not be getting through this without that support.
“We have just been amazed with all the people who have reached out. We have been amazed by the number of people Everett has touched. I know my son and he is just a gentle boy. The family thanks the community for everything and hopes the community will keep Everett in their thoughts and prayers.”
Details on any funeral service were unavailable at press time.
Monday, Sept. 17: Everett Gant passed away tonight, according to Gulf County Sheriff Joe Nugent, who was notified by an uncle.