Police investigate brawl at Jacksonville Beach
A brawl involving several people late Monday at Jacksonville Beach caused police to totally shut down the Memorial Day festivities, sending thousands of people home early.
The melee broke out at the Sea Walk Pavilion, not far from the Jacksonville Beach pier, in the early evening. Video posted on social media sites shows multiple people involved in the last of the fights, then one man is thrown to the ground and several other men punching and kicking him, even jumping on top of him.
"I just remember one kid getting hit in the back of the head and a bunch of kids jumping on top of him," said Jose Lebron, who recorded the video on his iPhone. "I was like, 'Wow, insane.'"
Lebron said the people he saw throwing punches and kicking others all appeared to be younger than 18.
"It was a bunch of kids, you hear them talking," he said. "I heard him being mad and turn around, and I thought something was going to happen."
Dozens of police rushed to the area to try and control the crowd. Officers closed down roads from First to Fourth Avenues North and made everyone in sight leave the beach and kept a heavy police presence on the streets and near the pier until almost midnight.
Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Patrick Dooley said the man one the ground in the video suffered a dislocated shoulder and is still in the hospital. He said it's unclear what the fights were all about.
No arrests were made Monday night, but police are trying to identify suspects from the video.
Businesses were allowed to stay open, but some locked their doors because there was a backlash at first over the evacuation.
The Pier Cantina and Sandbar on Facebook issued an apology to customers for having to close early on Sunday and Monday evenings, citing safety reasons.
"This decision was made due to the unsafe environment that was present in the downtown and boardwalk area of Jacksonville Beach. The safety of our staff and customers is our #1 priority and we will do whatever it takes to ensure that goal is met. I would ask for all Jacksonville Beach residents to share this post as to raise awareness of this increasingly growing problem."
City Councilman Keith Doherty, who's also the general manager of the Lynch's Irish Pub at Jacksonville Beach, said fights like these threaten to damage the beach's image.
"It's hard for me as an elected official to promote the positive image of Jacksonville Beach," Doherty said. "This is such an important time in our community. We thrive on tourism."
Dooley said that in response to community concerns about the safety of the beach, police plan on having a stronger presence in the weeks to come.
"We want people to understand when you come out here to Jacksonville Beach to visit us, please bring your manners," Dooley said. "We are going to continue to put a heavy police presence on the weekends. We are addressing the quality of life issue and are going to stop any small fights as they start so they don't grow into bigger problems."
"It does ruin it for everybody else," Lebron said. "There are some people that don't want to come to the beach now, and that's not the crowd we typically see out here, honestly."
Beach residents created a Facebook group about voicing their concerns at a town hall meeting at City Hall at 6:30 p.m. Monday. However, the Police Department said there is no such meeting scheduled.
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