Sheriff T.K. Waters speaks at a new conference Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, as confiscated guns are shown nearby.Sheriff T.K. Waters speaks at a new conference Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, as confiscated guns are shown nearby.
Sheriff T.K. Waters speaks at a new conference Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, as confiscated guns are shown nearby. | Dan Scanlan, WJCT News 89.9

10 arrested after gunbattle that left hole in mayor’s window

Published on August 8, 2023 at 4:06 pm

A security video shows a group of young men running through James Weldon Johnson Park late Dec. 2, directly across from City Hall. One of them bends over to pick up the gun he had dropped.

The teen starts to run away, then turns and fires at least four times back into the park. At some point a bullet hits the window of the mayor’s office across the street.

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Seven months later, an investigation into the gunbattle has ended with the arrests of seven youths, ages 15 to 17, on multiple charges, plus three adults, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.

Sheriff T.K. Waters said the investigation grew beyond the City Hall gunfight into something “far-reaching.” Investigators ultimately discovered multiple other shootings had occurred between rival groups across the city.

Speaking beside two tables filled with 18 confiscated guns — four of them used outside City Hall — Waters said this has to stop.

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“This kind of stuff, there’s zero tolerance for,” Waters said. “I have said it before and I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I mean it. If this doesn’t make it clear, we will make it clear that this is not something that should happen in Jacksonville. I mean, fortunately that night, we did not lose a life. But it’s ridiculous, and it needs to stop.”

City Hall staff found a bullet hole in the mayor’s office window on Dec. 5, 2022. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

A City Hall staff member found the bullet hole in the office of then-Mayor Lenny Curry early on Dec. 5, the Monday after the gunfight. A police report filed just after 11 a.m. Monday showed that a City Council staff member also found bullet casings in James Weldon Johnson Park that morning as she was on a break.

Police and City Hall officials had no comment at the time about the bullet hole, which did not pierce the glass. But security video from cameras at City Hall shows a group of young men running east through the park in what the sheriff called a battle between Groups A and B. Then a young man in a white shirt drops his gun, picks it up, and muzzle flashes are seen as he fires before running away.

“He dropped the gun, first of all, then ran back to pick it up and recklessly started squeezing off rounds,” Waters said. “There were rounds being returned.”

Waters said this was not “an attack on City Hall,” but a shootout between two groups of young men who are not documented gang members, but are affiliated with rival groups.

“Throughout 2022, Group A terrorized the Sherwood neighborhood with gun violence,” Waters said. “Residents of that neighborhood were living in fear daily due to various shootings linked to Group A.”

Three teens who were part of Group A were arrested, one facing six felony counts and the two others three counts each, the sheriff said. The four arrested in Group B face nine counts among them, while the three adults, ages 18 to 28, were charged with multiple felonies, Waters said.

The Sheriff’s Office confiscated 18 weapons after the arrest of 10 young men. Investigators said the guns were involved in multiple incidents including a gunbattle Dec. 2 outside City Hall. | Dan Scanlan, WJCT News 89.9

The exact charges and incidents of gun violence in the Sherwood neighborhood were not released, as the sheriff said a investigation continues. But he said that forensic technology allowed investigators to link the guns to “crime events.”

As to what caused the City Hall gunbattle, Waters said it is hard to tell now.

“Sometimes it’s as simple as someone saying something to someone the wrong way, or making a rap video that disses the other group,” he said. “It really makes no sense, and there is really no reason for it.”

author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 email Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.

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