Man threatened woman, baby with gun, police say

James Merritt, 27, facing child abuse, kidnapping, 2 aggravated assault charges

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man was arrested Thursday on the Westside after he threatened to shoot a woman and a baby, and ran over the woman’s foot while driving off with the baby, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said.

James Merritt, 27, got into an argument with a woman outside a home in the Southern Oaks Trailer Home Park, where two witnesses told police they saw him slapping and choking her and then forcing her into the passenger side of his car. When the witnesses tried to intervene, police said, Merritt pointed a gun at them.

"The guy had her pinned up against the car, screaming, and punching her in the face," one of the witnesses told News4Jax on Friday. "He beat her like a grown man would beat another grown man. It was bad."

According to police, Merritt turned the gun on the woman and said, “Who do you want me to shoot first, you or the baby? It’s your choice, and it’s on you.”

She got into the car, and told police she calmed him down as they drove to a drugstore to get baby wipes. When Merritt parked the car, the woman got out and tried to get the baby out but he put the car in reverse and drove off, running over her foot, police said.

The baby was still in the car when Merritt drove away, police said.

The woman was able to get back home, where she called the police. As she was talking to officers, Merritt showed up and was arrested. 

"You could tell she was beaten up. She was limping," the witness said. "She looked like a woman who had just been through hell."

According to family members, the woman and Merritt were no longer dating and, for some reason, Merritt became physically hostile. Family members also confirmed to News4Jax on Friday that the woman was OK and her child was not harmed. 

Merritt is charged with child abuse, kidnapping and two counts of aggravated assault. He was booked into the Duval County Jail and ordered held on $750,000 bond.

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