Neighbors feared 12-year-old murder suspect

Boy accused of shooting, killing homeless man

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Residents at a Westside apartment complex where a 12-year-old murder suspect used to live said they were terrified of him.

Sharron Townsend was arrested Thursday on a murder charge after police said he randomly shot and killed a 54-year-old homeless man in June.

Townsend used to live in an apartment off Indian Lakes Court.

"No good. I don't have anything good to say about him," said one woman who didn't want to be identified.

Neighbors said Townsend was always in trouble, starting fights and even begging on the corner, pretending to be homeless.

The woman said his parents couldn't control him. She's just glad he doesn't live there anymore.

A couple months ago, Townsend moved to Portsmouth Avenue in Northwest Jacksonville. Neighbors there said they look out for one another, and they didn't know Townsend too well just yet.

"He was pretty cool. He played football and stuff like that around the neighborhood," neighbor Carlos Peterson Jr. said. "Playing in the streets. That's all. Typical kid stuff."

Investigators said Townsend shot Thomas Trent (pictured below) in the head with a .22-caliber gun in what they called a "horrible, spontaneous" act of violence.

Thomas Trent
Thomas Trent

Police said surveillance video captured Townsend and a 16-year-old before and after the shooting at a shopping center off 103rd Street.

"If he's with someone who is 16 who he's looking up to, he may not have had the type of structure in his family, maybe an older male who he could look up to at home who could guide him, so he turned to someone on the streets who he could look up to, and it may be the wrong influence," said News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith.

Last year, the then 11-year-old Townsend was arrested on a burglary charge. Detectives said he and another kid broke into R.L. Brown Elementary School and stole three Apple laptop computers, a box of tissues and a can of air freshener.

According to the police report, they went out one of the doors, saw an officer and took off running, hiding the stuff they stole. They went back later after officers left and retrieved the stolen property, according to the report.

Pastor Mark Griffin, who ministers troubled youth through Wayman Ministries, said the root of the problem typically traces back to what's happening in the home.

"My heart goes out to the family who lost a loved one, and I think as we focus on the 12-year-old, we cannot forget that we have a grieving family out there," Griffin said. "And it's them today, but if we don't really deal with our children, it could very well be us tomorrow."