2 Life sentences for repeat felon who opened fire in bar, killing innocent bystander

Prosecutor Peter Overstreet (seated, left, by bailiff) during Deerick Bell’s (in orange) sentencing Wednesday.

A man who opened fire on a person who punched him in a bar, striking and killing an innocent bystander, was given 2 Life sentences Wednesday, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Prosecutor Peter Overstreet successfully argued for Deerik Marquis Bell, 38, of Panama City, to be given consecutive sentences enhanced by designating him as a Prison Releasee Reoffender, designating him a Habitual Felony Offender, and sentencing him under Florida’s 10-20-Life law.

Prosecutor Peter Overstreet (right), and Circuit Judge Shonna Young Gay wait while the defendant talks to his attorney.

With these designations, Circuit Court Judge Shonna Young Gay sentenced Bell to Life in prison for both Manslaughter (while armed) and Attempted Second-Degree Murder (with discharge of a firearm) and ordered the sentences to run consecutive to each other.

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The defendant previously served 5 prison sentences and had been released from the latest less than 6 months before the Sept. 2021, shooting death of Tracy Eckman at the Outrigger Lounge. He was found guilty at trial March 20.

“With today’s two life sentences, the family of Mr. Eckman finally have closure from this senseless killing,” Overstreet said. “It is a reminder that our law enforcement partners and the State Attorney’s Office will continue to seek justice for our victims and hold those who break our laws fully accountable.”

Overstreet noted Eckman was a popular and friendly customer. He was minding his own business that night with friends when shots rang out. The defendant, “a convicted felon who shouldn’t have had a gun in the first place,” was punched by another man, and responded by “immediately pulling his gun and firing.”

A Bay County Sheriff’s Office bailiff stands by with the defendant.


Both shots missed the man who threw the punch: 1 bullet struck and killed Eckman while the other bullet buried itself in the back of a chair in which a female patron was sitting.

“It was crowded, it is only by the grace of God nobody else was struck by gunfire by Mr. Bell,” Overstreet said.

Noting the defendant’s 16 prior felonies and prison sentences, Overstreet said there “was nothing left the system can do” and asked for the Life sentences.

Basford thanked the Panama City Police Department and case agent Cpl. Matthew Kelly for their work on the case.

For more information, contact Mike Cazalas at mike.cazalas@sa14.fl.gov, or call 850–381–7454.

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