JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A triple shooting over the weekend at a Northwest Jacksonville park is the latest case of violent crime to unfold at a city park in recent years.
Three people including a 15-year-old were injured when gunfire rang out Sunday at J. Gardner Scams Memorial Park on Richardson Road, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
The sudden display of violence took people in the Picketville neighborhood by surprise.
“It had to be something personal because this area – this is not that type of area,” one neighbor said Monday. “There’s a lot of older people who stay in the area. Very quiet, very nice.”
Officers answering a shooting call shortly after noon Sunday found three people, ages 15 to 38, at the basketball court with gunshot wounds, police said. Two of the victims were taken to an area hospital with injuries that were not deemed life-threatening, while the 15-year-old had a graze wound.
Based on preliminary details, investigators suspect a gunman walked out of the woods near the park’s entrance and then opened fire on the basketball court with a handgun, striking the victims.
No suspect or motive information has been released.
A News4Jax search of crime mapping tools for the area shows at least 19 crimes have been reported within a half-mile radius of J. Gardner Sams Memorial Park over the past six months. Those include: eight battery cases, six thefts, two burglaries, two auto thefts and one fraud.
As News4Jax has previously reported, it’s not the first time a city park has been the site of violent crime:
- In November 2018, a 20-year-old man was shot and killed at a playground near Spring Park Elementary;
- In December 2018, a 23-year-old man was shot and killed at Yancey Park in Northwest Jacksonville;
- In February 2019, a teen and man were killed in a quadruple shooting at Elizabeth R. Powell Park.
In an emailed statement Monday, Mayor Lenny Curry’s Chief of Staff Jordan Elsbury told News4Jax that safety at city parks remains a priority, citing a range of security measures now in place at different parks:
We work closely with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to ensure our over 400 parks are safe places for all citizens. Additionally, we have taken various measures such as roaming private security services, converting park fixtures to provide LED lighting, and we have also installed monitored security cameras in various parks. The last measure that impacts parks security is programming and activities. We have expanded our Rec and Roll program which staffs many of our parks with coaches to monitor the facility and engage our youth in various recreational activities.Jordan Elsbury, Chief of Staff to Mayor Curry
News4Jax Crime and Safety Expert Ken Jefferson said securing so many parks isn’t easy unless someone wants to pay for round-the-clock security. He said parks are often vulnerable spots with open fields and basketball courts.
“Unless we have someone out here all the time, it’s very hard to police it because a lot of them are in residential areas and they expect to be heavily populated,” Jefferson said. “If police out here are not here all the time, it’s very difficult.”