JSO: Boy injured, woman grazed in related drive-by park shootings
Light-colored Buick involved in both shootings at nearby parks, police say
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A boy was injured and a woman was grazed by a bullet in two drive-by shootings, which are believed to be related, at two parks in Northwest Jacksonville on Tuesday evening, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Lt. Ellis Burns said a 12-year-old boy was sitting on a bench by the basketball court at Charles Clark Park on Sibbald Road at 7:21 p.m. when a light-colored Buick, possibly a LeSabre model, drove by and someone in the car started firing out the window.
The boy took off running, but was shot in the leg, Burns said.
Bernard Brown, a football coach and athletic director of Charles Clark Park, told News4Jax the shooting lasted for three minutes as three gunmen reloaded and the 70 children -- who were attending football camp and playing basketball -- ran for cover behind the concession stand.
"We saw a guy who was down and found out it was his older brother who picked him up first. He started bringing him over there while yelling, 'My brother has been shot. My brother has been shot," Brown said. "We then grabbed him and took him outside of the park and into the parking lot. We tied a shirt around his leg to try to slow down the bleeding.”
The 12-year-old was then taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to police.
Brown said he saw three shooters hanging out of the Buick, which had stopped in the middle of the street.
"One gun was chrome. One gun was black. And the other gun, we just saw the fire coming out of it," Brown said. "It was something I don't want to experience again."
Seven minutes later, a second drive-by shooting was reported about 2 miles away at Yancey Park on Soutel Drive.
A 30-year-old woman was grazed by a bullet at the park's baseball field, where a T-ball game was going on, Burns said.
According to JSO, investigators believe the same Buick was involved in both shootings, which appear to be related, but it's unclear if the shots were targeted at someone in particular.
Burns said multiple shell casings from different guns were recovered at the parks.
About 9:45 p.m., while officers were briefing the media on the two drive-by shootings, shots were heard from a shooting at the Shannon Ridge Apartments on Shenandoah Avenue. Officers found two men shot. One of them died at the scene, and the other is expected to recover. (Full story on homicide investigation)
That wasn't the end of Jacksonville's violent night. A man who said he was shot during a robbery about 11:45 p.m. showed up at Baptist Medical Center, the Sheriff's Office said.
Anyone with information about any of the shootings is asked to call JSO at 904-630-0500 or email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.
Youth sports practices canceled after park shootings
Safety concerns over the Tuesday evening shootings at two different Northwest Jacksonville parks prompted youth sports teams to cancel practices until the beginning of next weekend.
News4Jax was told T-ball coaches have canceled practice at Yancey Park until Monday.
Brown, who was holding a youth football camp at Charles Clark Park at the time of the shooting, said Tuesday's gun violence has forced him to cancel football practice for the rest of the week.
"(The decision) was based on trying to get JSO time to put pieces together and solve this," Brown said.
Brown said canceling practice until Monday also gives the Sheriff's Office enough time to schedule an officer to be present at future practices, and gives him enough time to reassure parents that their children will be safe going forward.
"It's sickening and disgusting. It's sad. This was our second annual camp that we host here for the kids, just to do something to keep them out of trouble, and trouble brings itself here," Brown said. "But the rainbow behind the rain, through the clouds, is that it happened at multiple parks. So you can't just single-out one park of the two and say, 'Oh, we can't go back there because this is what goes on there.'"
Glenwood Alexander told News4Jax on Tuesday that he was running the Yancey Park concession stand for the athletic association when he heard about the shootings. He said he was surprised because, normally, there are no problems during the games.
"It's pretty good around here -- not too much trouble," Alexander said.
But Alexander believes it's time the city of Jacksonville steps in to do something, saying city officials leave everything up to the athletic association when the parks department should be involved.
"I would like to know what the city is doing. We are out here every day with the kids, trying to make a difference in the community," he said. "But I don't think the city is doing anything."
News4Jax put that question to city officials, and was sent the following statement from Director of Public Affairs Marsha Oliver:
"The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is leading the investigation involving gunfire that took place in north Jacksonville yesterday evening. It is very unfortunate that kids and families enjoying a baseball game at a nearby park were impacted. The City of Jacksonville Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department maintains its commitment to serving children and families with quality programs and offerings that contribute to their safety and well-being."
But News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said there are some concerns about enforcement at the parks because signage about hours is questionable, and many are not locked and secured overnight.
Having 24-hour security with live-in officers "helps with some parks, but those are your very large parks. Here in Jacksonville, you have a lot of very small parks," Smith said.
Freddie Kelly, who has lived near one of the parks for more than 40 years, said there is a gang problem in the area and police need to be patrolling the parks.
"Kids right now do not have school and got no place to go. They come to the parks. This whole gang thing, it comes up," Kelly said.
Kelly is just one of many people now asking how safe the parks in Jacksonville really are. Smith said the parks can be dangerous at times.
"Sometimes they are, especially in the summertime when kids are out of school. Wherever you are going to have a gathering of people, especially in a high crime area, then there's the increased chance or crimes being committed," Smith said.
According to the JSO crime-mapping tool, there have been two homicides, 128 assaults and 177 larcenies within a 2-mile radius of the parks within the last six months.
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