Shooting near sports complex leaves city, sports fans on edge
Jacksonville sheriff says 600+ police assigned to Georgia-Florida game
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While a search continues for a gunman who opened fire on people on A. Philip Randolph Boulevard Sunday, not far from where fans were getting ready for the Jaguars home game, city leaders are looking for answers to this wave of violent crime In Jacksonville.
Five men and a woman were struck in the spray of bullets -- the second mass shooting in Jacksonville in less than two months. Three of those were critically injured.
"We are diligently investigating this weekend’s incident," Sheriff Mike Williams said in a statement Monday. " I share the community’s frustration in the violence that is impacting our city. We will turn the tide on the violence, and we will do it sooner with the community’s help. Anyone who has information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS."
Police officers released a photo of the car they believe was used in the shooting. They hope someone in the general public can identify who might have been inside.
After visiting with several of the victims recovering at the hospital, Mayor Lenny Curry issued a statement Monday asking the community to join him in praying for them as they fight to live.
“Following yesterday's incident, I was briefed by JSO, as well as the JFRD chief on the status of the victims. My briefings with public safety officials will continue as this investigation continues," Curry said. "The ongoing violence in our city is heartbreaking and frustrating, however, I remain committed to working with partners including the sheriff’s office and state attorney’s office in addressing all of the factors that result in crime violence -- enhancing enforcement, strengthening prevention and intervention efforts, and improving neighborhoods."
With fans pouring into town this week for the Georgia-Florida game, some are questioning what is being done to protect people at city venues and in neighborhood homes. Organizers of the event announced that metal detectors will be used at the entrances to TIAA Bank Field for Saturday's game.
Jacksonville police and fire officials met early Monday at the emergency operations center to discuss plans for the week. Media was not allowed in the meeting, but Monday afternoon, Williams said more than 600 police will be assigned on game day to the stadium and surrounding neighborhoods.
"We will have special resources staged and ready for rapid deployment if needed. Additionally, we are bringing in additional lighting systems to set up along the main thoroughfares," Williams said in a statement. "Our federal, state and local partners are -- as always -- working closely with us in the pre- and post-game preparations. We are all committed to ensuring that Jacksonville residents and visitors enjoy this annual celebration.”
A news conference is scheduled for Tuesday, which normally addresses game-week events, traffic and parking.
While RV City near the stadium does not officially open until Tuesday, some are already in town waiting to get a prime spot.
Bulldogs fan Joe Clark, who has been waiting in line since Friday to get into RV City, is wondering about the safety of parking and staying downtown.
"After yesterday ... yesterday was a pretty hairy day. Helicopters flying around," Clark said. "I mean it’s crazy, but I feel safe because I’m comfortable."
Peter Wells said he heard gunshots in the distance during Sunday's shooting. He plans to tailgate during the Georgia-Florida game.
"The police have really stepped up their patrol in this area," Wells said. "I have seen several police cars that have actually come into this (parking) lot and park for some time."
Jacksonville leaders have been talking about the city's gang problem for several weeks now.
"It’s a very small percentage of these violent acts -- random acts of violence -- happening all over our city on any given night," Curry told News4Jax reporter Kent Justice two weeks ago. "That said, where it’s happening (it's) largely gangs. We are working on collaborating together to solve it."
"That’s why we been, long before today, in discussions with one another," Melissa Nelson added. "I have a set of tools; you have these sets of tools and how can we work together to address a complicated problem."
Outside of RV City, some are concerned about what could happen before they get inside the perimeter of the stadium.
"Maybe today, because it’s just a few of us," Mark Agerton said as he waited outside RV City. "But tomorrow, when we move (into RV City), there is always a police presence all around RV City."
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