JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man who exchanged gunfire with Jacksonville police officers Wednesday night in Northwest Jacksonville escaped capture and police are still searching for him.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office reported that no officers were injured in the shooting, which took place at the intersection of McConihe and Whitner streets, near James P. Small Park.
According to JSO Asst. Chief Scott Dingee, two officers responded at 10:47 p.m. to reports of gunshots on McConihe Street. They found bullet holes in an empty home, but no one injured. An hour later, a man on a bicycle, who matched the description given by witnesses earlier, was spotted in the area.
When officers asked him to stop, he threw his bicycle at them and took off, police said. As the man ran away, he reached into his backpack for a gun and fired at Officer Maurice Greene, according to JSO. Greene returned fire, shooting five times, but missed the man.
The sheriff's office released a statement Thursday saying that two bullets were recovered from a home near the shooting and that they were collected as evidence. Ballistics tests must be conducted to determine where the bullets came from, police said.
“During the administrative review of all officer-involved shooting incidents, officers are held accountable for each and every bullet that was fired, to ensure the policies and procedures of the Sheriff’s Office have been followed,” the statement said.
Bullet barely misses boy, family says
The couple living in the home hit by the gunfire said one of the bullets narrowly missed killing their 6-year-old son, who was sleeping on the top bunk of a bunk bed. The boy woke up crying and said he saw lightning and was scared, his mother said.
The home on 7th Street West, where the child was sleeping, had visible bullet holes in an outer wall, and a bullet hole could be seen inches above the bunk bed.
The couple, who said they heard the gunfire coming from McConihe Street, said another child was asleep in the bottom bunk and a third child and an infant were also sleeping in the home Wednesday night.
If the bullet holes in the back of the couple's home were in fact from Wednesday night’s exchange, the bullets were likely from the officer’s gun, because he fired more than one shot.
The couple said they are not happy with police and it is unacceptable for officers to be firing shots toward homes where children live.
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said that Greene had to make an instant decision after the man fired a shot.
“It seems like maybe (because) it's a residential area, you shouldn’t return fire, but when you're in that type of situation, your stress level goes up immediately -- I mean instantly, and you're looking at life or death, so the officer has to do something to try and protect himself,” Smith said. “When you're in a situation where all of a sudden someone is firing at you, and you're not planning it or expecting that, you have less than a second to make that decision, and if they're firing shots at the officer, they're going to return fire unless immediate danger or someone else is in immediate danger nearby.”
Next door to the home where the couple said the bullet went through their son’s room, there was a SWAT standoff hours after the shooting.
Police said that right now they are investigating them as two separate incidents, and they don’t know at this time whether the SWAT incident is related to the man who shot at the JSO officers.
Officer-involved shooting aftermath
Dingee said Greene has been with JSO for two years and has 20 years of military experience. The shooting is being investigated. Greene will not be placed on administrative leave, because his gunshots did not hit anyone.
Smith said that because no one was hit, the shooting will not be investigated by the State Attorney’s Office.
“In this case, there will be a departmental investigation after they get all the information,” Smith said. “It does take time to go door to door interviewing everyone, gathering evidence. It takes a bit of time, and they're not going to rush through this. They're going to take their time, because they want to make sure everything is done properly.”
The JSO Response to Resistance Board will determine whether Greene followed departmental guidelines for the use of deadly force.
Sheriff responds to parents' concerns at neighborhood walk
Ten miles away from where the shooting happened, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams held a community walk in the Arlington neighborhood Thursday evening.
News4Jax told Williams that the couple living in the home hit by the gunfire said one of the bullets narrowly missed killing their 6-year-old son, who was sleeping on the top bunk of a bunk bed.
"It's a delicate balance and I think that it's important for them to know, I want them to know we're going to take a critical look at this. This is a very serious issue to us and nothing gets overlooked or brushed under the rug by any stretch," Williams said.
Williams said it's important to remember that the officer was taking his own life into consideration, since shots were fired at him.
By holding his agency more accountable when it comes to hearing from the community first-hand and listening to residents' concerns, Williams said he feels that the neighborhood walks could be the beginning to less crime throughout the entire city.
"We have really tough issues to talk about and tackle, but if you wait until we've go that tough issue before you build a relation, it's going to be an argument or conversation that you're never going to be able to have. If you've got a relationship, it's a different conversation," Williams said.
Anyone with any information about either the shooting or the earlier incident police investigated Wednesday is asked to call JSO at 904-630-0500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To remain anonymous and receive a possible reward of up to $3,000, those with information are asked to contact First Coast Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS or text CRIMES (274637) and include the following: TIP326 and the message.