Schools, trains, traffic: Community impacts of manhunt for suspect accused of shooting deputy

Nassau County deputy critically injured in shooting during traffic stop early Friday morning

Patrick McDowell (Photo from Nassau County Sheriff's Office)

CALLAHAN, Fla. – Road closures affected school bus pickups and drop-offs and trains were shut down, blocking some people in their homes Friday morning, as investigators searched for a suspect accused of shooting a Nassau County deputy.

The deputy was taken to UF Health Jacksonville with life-threatening injuries after being shot during a traffic stop, investigators said.

Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and state patrol personnel were seen searching on U.S. 301 near Higginbotham Road and Sandy Ford Road, and 301 was shut down from Higginbotham to South Mickler Street during the search.

Southbound U.S. 301 was reopened to traffic in the evening hours.

The search also shut down train operations, according to CSX. The company was asked to halt its operations during the manhunt.

Unfortunately, that left some Nassau County residents stranded in their homes Friday morning.

One woman, who asked not to be named, told News4Jax that because some dirt roads in Callahan are one way in and one way out, when the train stops in front of them, there’s no way to leave.

“The last time we called CSX was at 6:30 this morning, and they have no idea when they will be able to move the trains,” she said. “If something was to happen to someone, it’s not a good situation that we can’t get out.”

The woman said she hopes the situation is resolved quickly, for everyone’s sake.

“It’s very scary,” she said of having a fugitive on the loose in her town. “I hope they can find him. I hope they’re able to get him real soon.”

Friday morning, the Sheriff’s Office said road closures might prevent buses from picking up students from some of their usual stops. People who live in the area where police were searching were asked to follow directions to keep students safe. Those who were able to keep their child home from school Friday should know the absence will be excused, officials said.

“We have sent a message out to all of our families in the Callahan and Bryceville area to let them know if they do not come to school today, there will be an excused absence for them,” Nassau County Superintendent Dr. Kathy Burns said in an interview on The Morning Show. “School is in session, and your students will be safe. We will have a modified lockdown schedule to start our school day, but our students are safe.”

Nassau County schools Superintendent, Dr. Kathy Burns, joins us to provide more information.

Burns explained the modified lockdown schedule means students won’t be changing classes for the first part of the day and the building doors and classroom doors will be locked.

“We have our officers on every campus this morning. We have additional personnel on every campus. Our administrators and our team members are there. Your students will be safe at school,” Burns said.

Parents were asked to have patience as drop-off areas were delayed Friday morning.

“The buses may not be able to get to their stop this morning. They can communicate with our transportation officer at our district office. If their students are at the bus stops, we will attempt to reach them as soon as possible, but there are road closures due to this incident,” Burns said.

Sam Baldwin opted to keep his children home from school because of the search.

“This is a very tight-knit community, and we rely on each other. Our officers always keep us safe, and it’s truly a tragedy to hear when something like this happens,” Baldwin said.

Originally, West Nassau High School’s football game Friday night against Bishop Kenny was postponed to 10 a.m. Saturday because of the manhunt, but later in the evening West Nassau High Athletics posted that the game will be canceled.

West Nassau High is located not far from the original shooting scene.

About the Authors:

A Florida-born, Emmy Award winning journalist and proud NC A&T SU grad