JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters came out with a strong statement on Wednesday during a news conference after another child was killed by gun violence.
“One murder is one murder too many. But when innocent children are slaughtered as collateral damage to senseless acts of violence, I can’t stay quiet,” Waters said.
On Wednesday morning a triple shooting claimed the life of a 6-year-old boy and sent a 12-year-old and a man to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Waters said a single bullet struck both children while they were sleeping at the Hollybrook Homes Apartments, killing the younger brother.
The shooting came just days after another quadruple shooting killed a 3-year-old and two adults. Since last Friday, six people have been murdered in Duval County.
As of right now, 90 people have been murdered in Jacksonville this year, and at least 25 children have been shot, according to News4JAX records.
Waters is now asking why there is no public outrage about these acts of violence.
“I’ve stood over too many bodies to ignore how our community is being harmed, not only by violence but by its response to that violence,” Waters said.
Waters said he is heartbroken over innocent children being shot to death.
“There are Jacksonville families who have suffered unimaginable loss the loss of a child. The families are preparing to bury innocent children and that should not happen,” he said.
Last month, community leaders, activists, and ordinary people rallied together in solidarity after a gunman killed three people during what investigators called a racially motivated shooting. But since that incident, there have been a number of deadly shootings that were not followed by organized rallies to protest gun violence, especially gun violence in which children were the victims.
“Why are they not speaking up? We heard from them a few weeks ago. Why are we not hearing from them today?” Waters said.
Nearly an hour after Waters made those comments, the NAACP released a statement.
“The Local Branch of the NAACP is outraged at the overnight killing of a 6-year-old child. The senseless violence and shootings in our communities are unnecessary and need to end. The African American leaders should continue to stand in solidarity as they did previously over the recent mass shooting and call out the violence and senseless killings in the black community. The NAACP is strongly speaking out against these atrocities and is demanding a cease-fire,” the NAACP wrote.
Before Waters ended his news conference, he spoke directly to the people who committed gun violence.
“I vow to you that this agency will not rest until you are held accountable for your crimes. You took the lives of innocent children,” Waters said. “Our community will not protect you and our community rejects the sub-culture that glorifies the violence that you promote.”
Some of the handguns used in Jacksonville’s crimes were reported stolen from homes and unlocked cars. However, some of the guns recovered during criminal investigations are AK-47 and AR-style rifles with what appears to be an abundance of ammunition. Some of the guns recently recovered were converted into fully automatic weapons.
“They’re buying them off the street. We’ve collected hundreds of guns this year. Illegal guns. They buy them off the street. They pass them around,” Waters said.
Gun violence in general has been politicized. Some argue the violence within minority communities is the direct result of a lack of economic opportunities and community programs created by systemic racism.
“Those are excuses to excuse bad behavior,” Waters said. “And quite frankly, we have to take a stance and say we are not going to excuse bad behavior under any circumstances. If I do something wrong, then hold me accountable.”
Mayor Donna Deegan spoke via Zoom from London about the importance of getting to young people early, before it’s too late. She specifically talked about parks, programs and literacy.
“You’ve got to go back and start impacting the lives of these young people before they start to get involved in nefarious activities, or things that are going to drag them down,” Deegan said. “That’s why I say the prevention side to me is huge. I know there’s a great deal of disagreement over the gun legislation side, but we should all be able to agree that we need to do a better job of making sure that our kids are more successful.”
As of now, no arrests have been announced in any of the most recent shooting cases.
JSO is currently in the process of deploying 40 new police officers. But Waters said police cannot crack these murder cases alone. They need the public’s help. Meaning if you see something, you need to say something.
“Police officers can only successfully complete the important work that we do with the assistance of the public that we serve,” he said. “I know the people of Jacksonville are also tired of this violence. I ask you do not allow that emotional exhaustion to turn into apathy.”