JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville firefighter was attacked and robbed Saturday evening while walking home in Springfield.
According to a witness, two men got out of a car at Seventh and Main streets, hit the off-duty firefighter in the head with a bat or a pole, took his things and left.
The victim, who is also an Army veteran of five years, did not wish to speak on camera but told News4Jax the thieves took his credit cards, cellphone and other personal items.
Video shows a Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department unit helping the firefighter after the attack. He’s expected to make a full recovery, but his friends, like Tim Hope, are upset.
“You can replace things that are stolen, but when you physically harm somebody, it takes it to another level,” said Hope, who is the president of Springfield Preservation and Revitalization and chair of the Sheriff’s Watch for Zone 1 - Sector B.
Hope said people who live in the Springfield neighborhood had been speaking out on the community’s Facebook page about their safety concerns and their requests for more police patrols before the attack.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office crime mapping tool, in the last month, there have been nine burglaries, three vehicle break-ins, two car thefts, six thefts and four assaults in a half-mile radius of where the attack happened.
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson offered a warning for people as they venture back outside now that coronavirus restrictions are being lifted.
“We’ve got to be aware of our surroundings at all times,” Jefferson said. “We’ve got to understand that this pandemic is bringing out the worst in some people and some people are resulting to crime as a result.”
Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters, said these calls are especially hard when it’s one of their own who’s injured.
“It brings a whole other stress level to it. There’s a personal connection there and it makes it a little tougher," Wyse said. "You want to make (sure) everything is OK with them beyond just the care and you are worried about their family.”
The firefighter’s neighbors also hope he gets well soon.
“We want to make sure he’s getting well and starting to feel better, and our heart goes out to him and his wife,” Hope said.
As he recovers, the firefighter told News4Jax on Monday that he has been getting calls from neighbors saying his personal items are being found scattered throughout the neighborhood.
The Sheriff’s Office is investigating.