Coaches call for more funding to better secure Jacksonville parks during football games

Meeting at City Hall follows incident involving gunfire during youth football game in Mandarin

Coaches and community members weigh in on what it will take to make Parks safer for kids. News4Jax Reporter Corley Peel joins us live, with what coaches feel needs to be done to improve safety at the parks.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Following gunfire at a youth football game in Mandarin, a Jacksonville City Councilman called for a discussion about park safety Monday night at City Hall.

Inside the council chambers, several youth football coaches voiced their concerns.

“It’s only happening at games where a whole bunch of people congregate at,” said Michael Newby, a coach.

“Nothing is going to be done until a child dies,” said Shawn Fountain, athletic director with Westside Football League.

The meeting was led by Councilman Terrance Freeman and community advocate, Siottis Jackson.

By News4Jax count, there have been two incidents involving shots fired during Jacksonville-area youth football games in the past year. Fountain said he witnessed both.

In October, a man was shot and killed during a game in Arlington.

“It was a very traumatic experience. More so, because is kids witnessed it,” Fountain said.

On March 14th, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said two men got into an argument and one of them pulled a gun out of a backpack -- firing several shots.

RELATED: Parents react to gunfire at youth football jamboree

Detectives said more than 500 players and spectators were in attendance at the Mandarin Athletic Association football jamboree but no injuries were reported.

“Once everyone realized it was actually gunshots, that’s when everyone started to take cover and direct all of the kids to get on the ground,” Fountain said.

The coaches say a police presence is needed at the games. They also want more funding for the parks to provide better lighting and secured fences.

Park availability is also an issue, with some parks requiring permits to be used.

“There are a lot of parks that they can use, so they need to allow them to have them,” said Beigard Brown, a football coach.

The coaches feel this meeting tonight was a step in the right direction. Freeman says his office will be looking into the issue with permits and parks.

Freeman also said he will be following up with JSO to figure out what kind of safety measures can be put in place.

About the Author:

Corley Peel is a Texas native and Texas Tech graduate who covered big stories in Joplin, Missouri, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Jacksonville, Florida before returning to the Lone Star State. When not reporting, Corley enjoys hot yoga, Tech Football, and finding the best tacos in town.