Recent acts of gun violence in Oceanway believed to be connected, JSO says

During Thursday meeting, city leaders pledge funds in hopes of reducing violent crime

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Members of the Jacksonville City Council met Thursday night, addressing recent cases of violent crime reported within the city’s seventh district.

Council President Sam Newby and Councilman Reggie Gaffney hosted the forum on crime at Oceanway Church, and pledged to use more than $330,000 to help fund smaller non-profits with the hope of reducing violence in the community.

The meeting comes after a string of violence in Oceanway, starting with a 16-year-old being shot in a parking lot across from First Coast High School on March 1.

The next week, a car with six teenagers inside was hit by gunfire near the intersection of Duval Station and Starratt roads — killing a 17-year-old.

News4JAX discovered there were two more drive-by shootings less than 12 hours after that deadly shooting. Six people were home when shots were fired into an Oceanway house, according to a JSO incident report.

An investigator on Thursday night confirmed the incidents are believed to be connected.

“That’s not gang-related. That’s two groups of kids that are not getting along, and now, instead of pulling fists, now they pull guns,” said Mark Romano, JSO’s assistant chief of investigations.

Romano revealed that the fight was fueled by something on social media.

“Nobody called the police. Nobody called the school board. Because we could have at least gotten the chance to get to the bottom of it before someone pulls a trigger,” Romano said.

Tricia Fox, who attended the meeting, has two sons that are students at First Coast High.

“I need some immediate resolutions to send my children back to school Monday,” she said. “They don’t want me to pull them from their school, so I need to make sure they are safe.”

From more resources for teens, to getting boots on the ground to connect with at-risk children, the group determined that there is not a simple solution to the violence.

Notably, while some of these incidents were reported near First Coast High School, none were reported on school grounds. And “in light of the acts of violence taking place in our area,” the schools principal on March 8 said, the school would be taking enhanced security measures.

The chief of police for Duval County Public Schools reassured parents that their students will return to a safe environment Monday.

Gaffney said he planned to take the suggestions from tonight’s meeting and hopes to have another meeting in the future with concrete solutions.

About the Author:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.