Police converge on downtown Jacksonville Beach on March 17 after multiple shootings left one person dead and three others injured. | News4JaxPolice converge on downtown Jacksonville Beach on March 17 after multiple shootings left one person dead and three others injured. | News4Jax
Police converge on downtown Jacksonville Beach on March 17 after multiple shootings left one person dead and three others injured. | News4Jax

1 dead and 3 others shot in Jacksonville Beach

Published on March 18, 2024 at 12:28 pm

A violent night in Jacksonville Beach left one person shot dead and three more seriously injured after a crowd of partiers converged on the downtown bar district from spring break, the Players Championship and St. Patrick’s Day.

No arrests have been made in three unrelated shootings that began just before 8 p.m. near the Jacksonville Beach Pier. The violence ended 40 minutes later with the fatal shooting in the Sneakers Bar and Grill parking lot of Sneakers Bar and Grille, police said.

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Speaking early Monday, Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Gene Paul Smith was blunt about what happened

“I cannot emphasize the chaotic nature of the incident last night,” Smith said at a news conference. “We are currently working three separate, unrelated shootings. … This is multiple suspects and multiple scenes. We have multiple shell casings from pistol- and rifle-caliber weapons down on the ground. Two of these firearms have been recovered.”

The Jacksonville Beach Police Department had prepared for a busy weekend, expecting crowds for spring break, the holiday and those leaving the golf tournament in nearby Ponte Vedra Beach, Smith said. Added to that was a tip about a large gathering planned at the pier.

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The department posted a video early Monday compiled from city and private business surveillance cameras as well as some provided by beachgoers. It starts with a poster announcing “Drunk Day at the Beach” set for Sunday night.

“Who will be the drunkest?” the poster said. It said people should bring boxing gloves, and there would be volleyball and football.

Cellphone video shows large crowds of people on the beach Sunday night near the pier in Jacksonville Beach. Two people are seen fighting in the sand. | Jacksonville Beach Police Department

Smith said officers were assigned to the area, where 250 to 400 young people showed up.

The video then shows large crowds of people on the beach near the pier, surrounding two people fighting in the sand as many people record the match with cellphones. A security camera view from the north side of the pier shows police buggies rolling up to a crowd scene just after 5:30 p.m., then people running from the scene.

The Police Department video then shifts to handheld cellphone footage that also shows people running from the north side of the pier as more police vehicles roll up, light bars flashing. A final clip released by police shows people running into an open doorway, trying to get away from the mayhem.

“When the crowd was dispersed, that’s when the shootings happened,” Smith said.

Three people were injured. Two were listed in serious condition and the other in stable condition Monday morning, police said. One was a gunman who went to a hospital with a gunshot wound, Smith said. One victim was a bystander from out of town who was hit three times by gunfire, he said.

“We believe at this time that the first two victims were shooting at each other, and they are both victim/suspects at this time,” Smith said.

The second episode of gunfire occurred just before 8:15 p.m., when a man in a ski mask ran past a bar with a gun and fired a shot, Smith said. That suspect got away from officers, but no one was hit. Officers found the gun later, he said.

The third shooting was reported just after 8:30 p.m. in the Sneakers parking lot of Bar and Grille. Three men pulled out guns, but only one fired. A 21-year-old man was hit and died at the scene, Smith said.

Security camera images released by police show people running into doorways to escape one of the shootings. | Jacksonville Beach Police Department

“I had command staff on scene who heard the gunfire. I had an Atlantic Beach police officer who was on the scene almost immediately,” he said. “At this time I decided, with multiple shooters unknown, multiple victims unknown, to issue an active threat alert through our reverse 911, locking down our bars and immediately evacuating the downtown area.”

Law enforcement from the Jacksonville and St. Johns County sheriff’s offices as well as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement came in to help, Smith said.

Anyone with information, cellphone or social media video of the shootings is asked to contact the Jacksonville Beach Police Department at (904) 270-1667 and ask for the detective section.

Lead image: Police converge on downtown Jacksonville Beach on Sunday after multiple shootings left one person dead and three others injured. | News4Jax


author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 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.
author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 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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