Young enough to still be battling acne, the 18-year-old stood tall in the middle of Alabama Avenue early Monday and opened fire.
Hours later as dawn broke over Osceola County, police officers and residents marveled that no one died in the shooting that appeared too calculated to be a crime of passion. But two St. Cloud cops came close to losing their lives when the teenager riddled their squad car with sustained bursts of bullets before turning his weapon on himself, according to police Chief Peter Gauntlett.
"The officers did a remarkably good job," Gauntlett said. "They not only saved their own lives, they protected the neighborhood."
Officer Clinton Wise survived with a bullet wound in one foot. Officer Spencer Endsley, a rookie on the job for three weeks, suffered glass fragments in the face and arms after police said at least three bullets passed within an inch of his head.
Penney, the son of a longtime guidance counselor in the Osceola County school system, was found lying in the street with a massive facial wound, surrounded by fired shell casings. Police said the teenager stuck one of two AK-47 assault rifles he was carrying under his chin and fired a bullet through the roof of his mouth after Wise fired a shot back at him.
Trauma surgeons at Orlando Regional Medical Center told police Penney is expected to survive but will remain in the intensive-care unit in critical condition for an unknown number of days.
The "why?" remains unknown, but interviews and a social manifesto discovered by police in Penney's bedroom described a young man bent on self-destruction with all of his anger focused on a seemingly routine crash that damaged his car.
What's known, police said, is that in the early-morning hours Monday, Penney donned military camouflage clothing, combat boots, a Bowie-style sheath knife and a tactical vest for carrying multiple magazines of ammunition. And he armed himself with his semiautomatic AK-47s, one of the world's most popular assault rifles that almost anyone 18 or older can buy in Florida.
Shortly before 2 a.m., the shots began on Alabama Avenue, outside the home of Michael Murray — one of three teens who had been riding with Penney in September during the seemingly innocuous fender-bender in nearby Narcoossee — according to interviews.
"It was loud and consistent: ba-ba-ba-bam-bam-bam," said Ashley Speedling, 21, who was awakened next door by the explosive banging. "When the guy next door went out and yelled, 'Oh, my God; he's walking down the street shooting,' [Penney] turned and fired [at the man]. We heard the bullets ricochet. It was absolutely insane."
Speedling's roommate, 21-year-old Christie Shaytile, remembered the shooter's pace.
"It was really crazy. He was just walking, just a normal walk. Maybe a power walk, walking fast, but not running," Shaytile said, describing how the gunman stopped under a nearby streetlight and fired at least 20 shots for a second time toward Murray's home.
In front of the Alabama Avenue home, law-enforcement officers placed at least 17 crime-scene markers indicating where they found fired cartridges.
Altogether, a shooting-investigation team from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement placed about 90 of the yellow markers. The number of bullets fired remained unknown late Monday, but police estimated in excess of 100.
Police officers pointed out a tight cluster of more than a dozen bullet holes in the wall of Murray's home, which indicated that Penney stood in the dark and fired as if he had been at a shooting range.
"He's obviously been out target practicing," Gauntlett said.
Detectives are investigating tips that Penney and one of two Murray brothers may have shot targets together. Michael Murray could not be reached, but his brother Joseph said he had seen Penney once at their house but didn't know him.
"It's another crazy day in St. Cloud," he said.
A search of Penney's bedroom at his home on Lakeshore Boulevard turned up a six-page manifesto that Gauntlett said showed that "he was angry at the world and angry at himself." Detectives also found a drum magazine loaded with as many as 100 cartridges for one of the teen's assault rifles, he said.
A neighbor, who gave her name as "Mary," expressed concern for Penney's parents, whom she described as the best neighbors in the world. Another neighbor described Penney as unusually reserved and said he had never said hello even when she passed just feet from him.
Penney attended St. Cloud High School last year, where a police officer assigned to the campus described him as very reserved, except when he was discussing his fascination with firearms. The teen's mother, Joy Penney Wietor, a school employee for 26 years and a guidance counselor at Neptune Middle School, was at the hospital with her son and could not be reached.
Law-enforcement officers from the Osceola County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Highway Patrol helped St. Cloud police during the attack and initial investigation, Gauntlett said.
The Police Department is still investigating the incident. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will also conduct an investigation.