KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Less than two weeks before a man armed with a semi-automatic rifle opened fire from inside his burning home, wounding a neighbor and taking aim at first responders, the 41-year old posted several YouTube videos showing prior confrontations he had with his neighbors, new records show.
Elijah Marcus Smith died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to authorities. Osceola County sheriff’s deputies found his body inside his Strathmore Circle home that was nearly destroyed by fire.
According to an investigative report detailing the April 20 incident, video from a neighbor’s surveillance cameras showed muzzle flashes emerging from a second story window of Smith’s home at 4:20 a.m. A fire was seen on the second floor about two minutes later.
Directly across the street, Sarkis Minassian woke up to the sounds of gunfire and breaking glass, according to the sheriff’s report and an interview with a family member.
As Minassian got out of bed to look out the window, he told detectives he was shot and fell down. Minassian was struck at least five times, according to his wife.
Deputy Todd Montford, who Minassian tearfully told detectives “saved me”, was among the first to arrive at the Remington golf community that morning in response to 911 calls reporting a shooting and a house fire, radio transmissions obtained by News 6 indicate.
Sheriff’s dispatchers originally did not know whether the fire and shooting were related.
“My understanding is the victim was inside the house. So I believe it was a drive-by shooting possibly,” a dispatcher told first responders shortly after numerous 911 calls began coming in.
As Montford cared for the gunshot victim inside the home, a dispatcher asked for clearance to send in the firefighters and paramedics.
“I just need you to confirm scene is secure for [the fire department],” the dispatcher said.
“10-4. Scene is secured,” Montford responded over his radio.
Unbeknownst to the deputy, the gunman was still inside the burning house across the street, records indicate.
Ten minutes later, as several fire trucks rolled up to the home, more gunfire erupted.
A neighborhood security guard later told detectives he heard approximately 200 to 300 shots that sounded “like popcorn”.
One fire truck was hit by at least a dozen bullets, according to investigators, prompting firefighters to take cover while the house continued to burn.
“They’re not going to put out the fire until we conclude inactive shooter,” a deputy said over the radio.
No firefighters were hurt during the incident.
A spokesperson for the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office said the agency did not conduct an internal investigation into the deputy who gave firefighters clearance to approach.
“(The) deputy was inside the victim’s home with the injured victim,” said Major Jacob Ruiz. “Based on his scene with the patient inside the home, he determined his scene was secure.”
From the safety of Minassian’s backyard, deputies and firefighters loaded the gunshot victim onto a golf cart and drove him to emergency vehicles waiting nearby to transport him to the hospital. Minassian was able to walk part of the way as deputies held him, radio transmissions indicated.
Approximately 30 minutes after the incident began, authorities were alerted that Smith may be the gunman and had a history of mental health issues.
“[A witness] says we have been at that house multiple times for problems,” a deputy announced over the radio.
Sheriff’s officials later confirmed the agency had attempted to serve an injunction at the home the prior week.
One neighbor told detectives she found it strange that Smith used a “flame thrower” to kill weeds outside his home.
Minassian’s wife, who described Smith as “weird”, informed investigators that residents had petitioned the homeowner’s association to remove Smith “because they were afraid of him.”
Around 7:30 a.m., as daylight began to reveal the extent of the fire damage to Smith’s home, personnel on board the sheriff’s helicopter spotted the gunman’s body lying amid the charred debris on the second floor patio of his home.
Investigators later found a M4 assault rifle and a Kimber 45 handgun lying near the body, records show. Smith had purchased those weapons, the ATF informed sheriff’s officials.
The state fire marshal classified the fire as arson since it occurred during the commission of a felony, but investigators were unable to determine what started the blaze or what materials were first ignited.
As part of its investigation into the shooting, Osceola County Sheriff’s detectives learned Smith had posted videos to two different YouTube accounts less than two weeks earlier.
In his final video uploaded April 12 titled “I Was Right, ABOUT EVERYTHING!”, Smith suggested the COVID-19 pandemic may be a government conspiracy.
“If you’re quarantining healthy people, you’re imposing martial law without actually calling it martial law,” Smith said on the video as he read online news accounts about the virus.
In another series of YouTube videos, Smith is seen confronting several of his neighbors about alleged violations of the community’s homeowners association rules such as failing to keep driveways clean, operating businesses out of homes, and allowing dogs to be unleashed.
Several videos show Smith arguing with Minassian as he was repairing a vehicle outside his home.
“Working on cars in driveways again.That’s great,” Smith said to Minassian in footage that appears to have been recorded with a cellphone. “The HOA clearly states you cannot work on vehicles.”
Although that video was posted to YouTube on April 9, less than two weeks before Smith shot Minassian, the video’s caption indicates the confrontation had occurred nearly two years earlier.
The Remington Homeowner’s Association sued Smith in January 2019 claiming he violated several of the community’s regulations such as failing to maintain landscaping, failing to repair pool enclosure screens and failing to clean the roof.
The HOA lawsuit also accused Smith of filming residents without their consent and being aggressive and confrontational with residents.
The lawsuit also named Smith’s ex-girlfriend as a defendant.
Court records in an unrelated lawsuit indicate the ex-girlfriend co-owned the home but had moved out in late 2019 after their relationship came to an end.
Despite mental health issues, problems in his personal life and documented conflicts with his neighbors, authorities could not determine why Smith opened fire from the burning home.
“No clear motive for the shooting was identified,” a detective wrote in a report.