JSO: At least 30 gangs operating in Jacksonville

Police concerned about retaliation after Town Center Parkway quadruple shooting

By Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - There are at least 30 gangs operating in the city, and the only survivor of Tuesday evening's quadruple shooting is a member of one of them, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

The Sheriff's Office on Thursday identified Kenyata Bullard, the 20-year-old who was hospitalized, and his brother, 18-year-old Trevon Bullard, as members of a local gang.

The two brothers, along with two other teenage boys, were inside a silver Chevrolet Cruze on Town Center Parkway just before 11 p.m. Tuesday when someone pulled alongside and opened fire, police said. The three teens died. Kenyata Bullard was shot, but survived.

According to JSO, detectives have determined that they were targeted based on an ongoing dispute between two groups and the shooting was not a random act of violence. 

The Bullard brothers began with promising lives and no one knows why, according to police, they chose to be in a gang. But the Sheriff's Office said there are many gangs operating all over the city, mostly on the Westside, Northside and Eastside. 

"They usually grow from neighborhood groups that hang out together and young men just join in because they think its something to do," Assistant Chief T.K. Waters, with the Sheriff's Office's Violence Reduction Strategy, told News4Jax on Thursday. "The growth comes that way."

Waters, who has been an officer for 27 years and works to prevent gang violence, said it "is fair to say" that there are more than 30 gangs in Jacksonville. 

Police are worried there will be another shooting after the gunfire Tuesday night that killed three and injured one on the city's Southside.

"Retaliation is always a concern," Waters told News4Jax on Thursday. "Most of the group and gang activity, it's not common just regular folks. It's those young men victimizing one another over and over again."

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According to JSO, Kenyata Bullard, who goes by the nickname Ace, is popular on social media as a music artist who talks mostly about street life, touting prop guns and money. Investigators said the music group and the gang have the same name.

"I don't think their primary goal is entertainment," Waters said. "But they are making real rap music."

Assistant Chief T.K. Waters

Waters offered a message to parents on how to protect their children from getting involved in gangs.

"Pay close attention," he said. "Pay attention to what your sons and daughters are doing."

That warning for parents could help save the lives of other children in Jacksonville. 

"We really need to listen to our children much more carefully -- as parents, but also as community members," said Dr. Chris Janson, associate professor and director of the University of North Florida's Center for Urban Education and Policy.

It is a mystery why some children join gains. Janson said some children are looking for acceptance and community.  

"A number of studies have pointed out some constant variables: a sense of belonging, feeling a sense of connectedness to something, having a sense of respect," Janson said. "Sometimes it is safety. Sometimes people live in a neighborhood ... where there are legitimate safety risks, so there is power in numbers."

As of Thursday, Kenyata Bullard remained in the hospital, where he has been posting to social media, mourning the death of his brother and two friends. 

No arrests have been made in the quadruple shooting.

Since the community problem response team and gang unit program began in 2016, JSO said, there have been 893 felony arrests, 588 misdemeanors, 266 guns seized and 63 felony gang members arrested.

Arrest warrant: Surviving victim involved in previous shots fired incident

Clay County court documents show Kenyata Bullard pleaded no contest in October to a charge of accessory after the fact in a robbery attempt. According to an arrest warrant, in the December 2016 incident, Kenyata Bullard and Deontrae Thomas went to an apartment in Orange Park with the intent to rob a couple who were selling marijuana. Shots were fired through the door, just missing the couple and their 1-year-old child by inches. The child was sitting in a high chair, and a bullet hit the head rest.

Kenyata Bullard was sentenced to seven months in jail, with credit for 105 days served, and placed on 31 months of probation.

The incident happened six months before the killing in Jacksonville of 18-year-old Zion Brown, for which Thomas is awaiting trial. 

Shell casings recovered at the scene of the Orange Park incident were matched to shell casings recovered at other crime scenes in Jacksonville.

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