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Great-grandmother: 'I just hope they catch whoever did it'

Mayor Curry returns to neighborhood where 22-month-old was shot Friday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The great-grandmother of a 22-month-old boy who was shot while sitting in a car that was sprayed with bullets Friday night said she has no idea who fired the shots, but knows what needs to be done.

"I just hope they catch whoever did it," Mable Paige said.

Aiden McClendon was in a car with his mother and grandmother, Mary Thomas, when police said someone in a passing white car fired the shots that struck their car and a nearby house. Aiden died the next day at the hospital.

Mayor Lenny Curry spoke to Paige on Monday.

"We had a personal moment," he said.

Curry knocked on doors and spoke with neighbors to see what he could do to help. He said he plans to do similar walks in the near future.

Saturday, after Aiden died at the hospital, Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams held a news conference saying they would spend $1.5 million on police overtime to get more officers on the streets.

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That money will come from funds allocated to the Jacksonville Journey and money already in the budget of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

"Starting in 2011, the city just quit investing in that," Curry said. "I am committed to it; my administration is committed to it. I know the City Council was committed to it, so this is going to be a sustained effort to make sure we are not having this conversation another year."

Williams said there is money in his budget and they're going to make it work.

"At any given time, half of the agency is not working. Half the agency assigned to patrol is not working," Williams said. "So we got a significant number of resources that we can pull into, work some additional hours on overtime in that five-day stretch."

During a City Council Finance Committee meeting Monday morning, lawmakers were told that the sheriff has an extra $6.6 million that wasn't spent last year. Some of that money will be used to pay for the overtime and eventually pay for new officers.

Finance Chairman Bill Gulliford said they can always find the money in emergencies like this, but he doesn't think that's going to solve this problem.

"There is no better policing than grandmothers and mothers sitting on the porch and watching what is going on in the neighborhood and reporting it," Gulliford said. "Those people are not going to do that until they see their neighborhood come up to a level where they feel comfortable and safe reporting that kind of stuff. So they're scared, and I wouldn't blame them. I would be scared, too."

If you know anything that could help police solve the killing of the toddler or other recent murders, call Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS. You can remain anonymous.


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