JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Detectives are investigating three separate shootings that occurred in Jacksonville over the weekend, resulting in the deaths of two people. Two of the shootings took place 18 hours apart within two miles of each other.
On Saturday night, police said 50 bullets were fired in a shootout on Palmdale, off Lem Turner Road. Only two people were hit by the gunfire, although police were on alert for other victims to show up at area hospitals.
Early Saturday morning, Melania Ross was struck in the back while she was inside a friend's home on Brooklyn Road, off 45th Street She died at UF Health Jacksonville. Police said multiple shell casings were found in the street outside.
"For somebody to take her life like this -- she had three kids that are left behind," said Sandra Smith, the victim's sister. "It's hurtful to know the sweet woman that she is, is gone."
Sunday evening, a man was shot twice on Liberty Street at 16th Street. He is expected to survive.
All three of these incidents were drive-by shootings, something News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson sees as a disturbing trend.
“When it comes to this type of violent crime, that’s a cowardly way to settle a difference to do a drive-by -- just to go by and spray (a) house and hit whoever gets in the way," Jefferson said. "They’re a bunch of cowards, a bunch of losers wreaking havoc on our city."
There have been 10 fatal shootings in Jacksonville so far this -- the most we’ve recorded in a three-week period in a few months. So far this year, 61 people have been killed by gun violence.
Jefferson said crime goes up this time of year when students are out of school.
“We are seeing a rise in violence in our city. A lot of it is dealing with our young people. Some could be gang-related. When you see shootings so close together, most of the time it’s gang-related or (a) retaliatory type shooting,” Jefferson said. “Once you get your street cred, you are the man. It doesn’t matter if it’s an innocent victim."
No arrests have been made in the three shootings over the weekend. Police have not even released any information about suspects.
The Ross family is hoping for an arrest.
“Somebody had to see something, and I hope they come forward for her kids’ sake,” Smith said.
Anyone with information about any of the shootings is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS. Callers can remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward of up to $3,000 for a tip that leads to an arrest.