Landscaping employee shot, killed

Shooting suspect, also employee, captured blocks away, JSO says

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An employee at a landscaping business on Jacksonville's Southside was shot and killed early Wednesday morning, and the suspected gunman, also an employee, was caught a few blocks away, police said.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said the shooting was reported just after 7 a.m. at B&L Landscape Co. on Spaner Road near McLaurin Road, off Philips Highway, just south of the Avenues Mall. Witnesses reported hearing two gunshots.

A neighbor whose son-in-law works at the business said that after the first shot, the victim and the shooter wrestled for the gun. The victim died at the scene.

The suspected gunman was arrested a short time later by an off-duty police officer. The names of the victim and the suspected shooter have not been released.

"There were several people coming to work that actually witnessed what happened, and we’ll be talking to them throughout the rest of the day to provide some details as to what exactly transpired," homicide Sgt. Chuck Ford said.

News4Jax attempted to contact the business, but the employees said they were still grieving the loss and declined to comment.

According to John Young, a neighbor whose son-in-law was in the office at the time of the shooting, the victim worked at B&L Landscape for a long time and was a "good guy." Young said he frequently rides his bike past and waves at the employees.

"He's going to be missed,” Young said. “I ride my bicycle every morning, and every morning he speaks or hollers out the window, 'What's going on?' all the time," Young said. " (He was a) good neighbor. He's going to be missed."

Young lives down the street, and said the deadly shooting is an unusual incident for the area.

"I couldn't believe this morning that that would have happened to him. No way,” Young said. “My wife says we all come the same way, but we don't know how we're going to leave.”

Young said his wife tried to go to work but couldn't stop thinking about the incident and came home.

"He's been working there a real long time, probably as long as I’ve been there,” Young said. “I see him on the weekend. He stops by and talks to me a minute.”

It was the second workplace shooting in northeast Florida in three days. A relatively new employee brought a handgun to Jacksonville Granite about noon Monday and started firing. The handgun misfired a couple of times, but James Cameau shot one employee in the backside as the co-worker was running away. Cameau then took his own life.

Neighbors shocked by violent encounter

The landscaping business is well-known in the community, and neighbors were shocked by the deadly shooting.

They said the area is typically quiet and the small business has been around for decades.

“This is a nice little street and area,” neighbor Haley Hudgens said. “It’s just shocking, crazy to think about.”

Neighbors who live down the road said they have never had problems with anyone at the business and have never seen police respond to the area.

They said they don't know why one employee would want to shoot and kill another.

“I came down the road, and I saw the police line, and so I walked over, and I saw the cars, and I ran into the house, and I asked my parents what happened, and he said somebody was murdered, and I’m like, 'What, that’s crazy,'” Hudgens said. “It breaks my heart. They’ve owned this company for a really long time, and I am sure they are just devastated, because they are an older couple, and they’ve owned this business for a long time and have a lot of property.”

Hudgens said her family goes past the business on a daily basis.

“We take our dog for walks down there every morning, and they are always busy,” Keith Hudgens said. “There’s probably a dozen workers there at that time in the morning.”

But Wednesday morning was different, with police cars and crime scene vans lining the streets. The entire business was blocked off as police investigated the shooting.

Keith Hudgens said it was hard to accept that a person was shot and killed just blocks away from where he lives.

“(It's) very peaceful. Everybody talks to us and admires our dog,” he said. “I haven't had any problems down there.”