Zachary Penton’s neighbor apparently had a bit of a feeling that something untoward was going to happen in Penton’s apartment. And one August morning that sense of apprehension seemed to be borne out when Penton’s roommate turned up dead. More chilling, however, was what had happened on Twitter beforehand.
The town of Gilbert in Arizona is, according to residents, “a nice neighborhood.” But one day things in the nice neighborhood all of a sudden turned very, very bad. The again, as a neighbor of Penton has claimed, there was “one bad seed in the neighborhood and everyone knew that already.”
But he was not talking about Penton. After all, the 21-year-old was new to the area, having only lived in the apartment for a couple of months. However, far more well-known to everyone was Penton’s roommate, a 41-year-old man named Daniel Garofalo. In fact, neighbors were particularly wary of goings-on in this apartment.
Then, on the morning of August 21, 2016, an altercation allegedly broke out at the residence of Penton and Garofalo, and police subsequently received a phone call saying somebody had been shot. As officers arrived at the scene, then, the “nice neighborhood” had turned into anything but.
The victim of the shooting was Garofalo, who was pronounced dead by first responders at the scene. The person who had called the police, meanwhile, was Penton, whom police said admitted to shooting his roommate during the altercation. Penton was subsequently arrested and charged with murder. Then, as police looked for evidence, attention turned to Twitter.
It appears that over the past four years, some potentially disturbing messages have been appearing on Penton’s Twitter. Though it’s alleged Penton is the author of these tweets, police, as part of their ongoing investigation, are still attempting to independently confirm that the account definitely belonged to him.
Still, as long ago as 2012, the Twitter account that purported to have belonged to Penton appears to relay an interest in guns. For instance, on December 21, 2012, a tweet appeared saying, “Get me a gun.” In February 2013, a second one appeared, stating, “I wish I had a gun. I’d feel safer.”
The pro-gun tweets produced by this account reportedly continued over the next two years. On March 3, 2013, for example, a tweet appearing on the Twitter account read, “I wanna go shooting maaan… I need to go buy a gun.” Four months later, another tweet said, “Someone sell me a gun.”
At the time of these tweets, their alleged author would have still been in his teens. With the law preventing minors from legally acquiring firearms, the tweets emanating from this account arguably grew more sinister as the account holder seemingly got closer to the age where they could legitimately buy a gun.
Then, on June 8, 2015, in a conversation apparently stemming from a challenge to watch the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy with no breaks, things began to look worse. Indeed, a tweet read, “F**k, Mr. Bills. I’ll buy a gun come my 21st bday and we will shoot some s**t.”
And then came the day when the account holder seemingly got their hands on a weapon. Yes, on June 4, 2016, a message appeared on the Twitter account that read, “Holy s**t buying a gun is so easy.” That was followed on June 9 by, “Anyone wanna shoot a bit today?” accompanied by four handgun emojis.
The person behind the tweets was seemingly not content with owning just a single gun, subsequently expressing an apparent desire for more. Things get markedly more gun-friendly from there, with that tweet quickly followed by a retweet that stated, “We have a clear enemy today and it isn’t a gun.”
The situation appeared worse still with a tweet reading, “I need 2 boxes of 9mm stat.” It’s a follow-up tweet, however, that garnered most interest. It stated, “I need to move out of my place before I viciously murder my roommates.” Posted two days before Garofalo was shot, it was subsequently deleted. If the tweets are proved to have been made by Penton, however, prosecutors could seek to charge him with first-degree murder and subsequently press for the death penalty if he is found guilty.
However, the case might not be as simple as it seems. For instance, a Gilbert PD spokesperson, speaking to BuzzFeed News, said police were looking into the possibility of there being another roommate who was absent at the time of the shooting.
Court documents, meanwhile, make for interesting reading. This is backed up by the Twitter account alleged to have belonged to Penton, who apparently had trouble finding a roommate. A tweet made by the account, dated November 1, 2012, for example, read, “Anyone wanna be my roommate?”
Indeed, according to The Arizona Republic, court documents state that Penton had finally moved into Garofalo’s house around June 2016. It is also noted in the court records that the two men had not met prior to that time.
And while The Arizona Republic reported that Garofalo was indeed shot during an altercation, it is alleged that Garofalo had asked Penton to move out of his place – and if Penton didn’t comply he would kill him. The court documents then outline Penton’s claims that he was scared by Garofalo’s irrational behavior and his talk of “black holes and alternate universes.”
The court records further state that, according to Penton, Garofalo tackled him and continued to grab at him as he got up to walk away. That was, apparently, when Penton reached under his pillow to grab his gun and shot Garofalo two times.
One friend has also been quick to defend Penton. They stated, “He likely snapped and made a horrible, irreversible decision.” The friend, who claimed to have known Penton for years, continued, “You don’t know what his roommates from Craigslist were like, if they threatened a knife or even another gun, anything could have happened.”
Neighbors didn’t know Penton either. They did, however, know Garofalo and tended to avoid him. For example, an anonymous neighbor has said Garofalo “seemed nice” but was in fact “very creepy” and “literally crazy.” For now, though, Penton is being held on a second-degree murder charge while the investigation continues.