PALATKA, Fla. – A Palatka man accused in a December drive-by shooting that left a father of seven injured was booked Wednesday into the Putnam County jail.
Leroy Reaves, 34, is charged with attempted first-degree murder, firing a weapon from a vehicle and possession of a weapon by a conviction felon.
According to a witness who spoke with police, there was already bad blood between Reaves and another man that had been boiling over for nearly a year. Then, in late December, it turned to gun violence.
On Dec. 29, according to the Palatka Police Department, the man, who News4Jax has chosen not to identify, suffered serious injuries in a drive-by shooting near the intersection of Washington and 17th streets. The man, who is a father of seven children, was flown to Orange Park Medical Center.
“When I was told he had been shot, I said, ‘Lord, not yet. I can’t handle this right now because we just not long ago buried his mom,’" said the man’s aunt, who News4Jax is also not identifying because the family fears more gun violence. “He’s got a newborn.”
Police said they identified the shooter as Reaves. According to a complaint affidavit, Reaves was a passenger in a car when he first rode up and displayed what appeared to be a “choppa,” which is street slang for an AK-47 rifle. A witness said Reaves yelled out "you ******** ain’t want this” to the victim before the car took off. According to the affidavit, witnesses said Reaves came back a short time later, but this time he was in the driver’s seat when he pulled out a handgun and shot the victim.
“Anybody could have been hurt out here and should have never happened," said the victim’s aunt, who added that lots of children were playing outside when the shots were fired. “That’s the bad part.”
The car used during the drive-by shooting was later found abandoned off West Main Street. When Putnam County sheriff’s deputies searched the vehicle, according to the affidavit, they found a silver shell casing matching the casings at the crime scene.
News4Jax was told Reaves turned himself in to authorities in connection with the case.
Reaves has a criminal background that includes several stints of incarceration, including for trafficking stolen property, according to Florida Department of Corrections records.
If convicted on the attempted murder charge alone, Reaves could get up to life in prison.
As for the victim, when News4Jax spoke with him on Thursday, he was hosting a birthday party for one of his young children. He said he was feeling a lot better now that he has fully recovered from his injury. He also acknowledged that there were prior tensions between him and the suspect.
“He doesn’t need to be here,” his aunt said. “He’s got too much potential to even be here.”