JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Police are seeking information about gunfire that erupted Sunday during a youth football jamboree at a Mandarin park, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday.
The request for information came just hours before parents of youth football players met with the Mandarin Athletic Association to weigh whether the spring football season will be canceled.
Shortly after 4:30 p.m. Sunday, officers responded to shots fired at Greenland Park, where there were about 500 players and fans gathered for youth football games.
Investigators said that during the jamboree, there was a dispute among spectators. Investigators said a man displayed a semi-automatic-style rifle and, at some point, multiple shots were fired.
While no victims have been identified, the incident “could have had dire consequences,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
“This could’ve been very, very terrible, a very bad situation had that weapon fired on those kids,” News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said.
According to parents, there was no security at Greeland Park at the time of the incident. A police report shows several officers, two K-9 units and the JSO helicopter responded to the scene.
The Sheriff’s Office said “in speaking with the promoter of the event, investigators have had very little cooperation or success in identifying potential victims and witnesses to the incident,” so officers are asking for the public’s help. Police said they’re trying to identify the gunman, who was last seen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and a red belt.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office by calling 904-630-0500 or emailing JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS (8477).
The jamboree was hosted by the Mandarin Athletic Association, and more than two dozen parents met Tuesday evening with members of the association to discuss whether the youth football season this spring will be canceled. The meeting was closed to the media, but one of the parents spoke with News4Jax about what happened.
“They were giving their apologies and basically leaving it up to the parents on how they would decide moving forward with the season,” said parent Sabrina Brown. “I already sent my message to the coach saying my son won’t be returning.”
News4Jax was told the parents planned to go home and make their decision, and if a majority of parents don’t allow their child to return, the association will cancel the spring season because there would not be enough players to compete. Parents like Brown would also be refunded the money they paid in advance for their child to participate in spring football. But if they have enough children to keep the spring season afloat, the association will make sure every game has security.
“We would have to pay additionally, possibly at the gate, to pay for that security,” Brown said.
That cost would be per person walking through the gate, and Brown said that can add up when large families come to the games.
“It was already $5 a piece, which doesn’t sound like much, but if you got your grandparents with you and other kids with you, siblings that don’t play, that can add up pretty quick,” she said.
Earlier Tuesday, News4Jax learned that parents were also told Elite South Youth Football League wanted parks to be responsible for security. As of Tuesday night, ESYFL had not returned News4Jax’s request for comment.
Sunday was the first game of 10 for the children participating in the league.
One of the coaches told News4Jax that the last couple of days have been tough on everyone who witnessed what happened during the jamboree. The Mandarin Athletic Association also announced at Tuesday evening’s meeting that a grief counselor will be available free of charge to any child or adult who was traumatized by Sunday’s incident.