Jacksonville Beach mayor says quick response from police, businesses should reassure visitors

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By journalsofus.com

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Florida. – Approximately 12 hours later One person was killed and three others were wounded in three unrelated shootings Sunday night. In downtown Jacksonville Beach, Mayor Christine Hoffman praised the quick response of police and local businesses.

Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Gene Paul Smith explained Monday morning that the first shooting was reported at 7:50 p.m., the second incident was around 8:13 p.m. and the third was at 8: 31 pm Smith called for an “active incident” closure of the downtown bar district as officers searched for the shooters and attempted to lead the crowd to safety.

Smith said that because of the increased law enforcement presence to help with large crowds during St. Patrick’s Day, spring break and the Players Championship, officers responded within seconds to each shooting. None of the shooters have been arrested.

“I think one of the important points in terms of the timeline of the three clearly separate shootings was that there was little to no response time in all three events. Our officers were there. They anticipated. Our mutual aid partners were here very quickly,” Hoffman said. “We’re an intelligence-based agency here, so they really keep an eye on things on social media and things like that to stay ahead of the crowds.”

Smith said his agency had received a tip about a large gathering planned at the pier and officers were assigned to the area, where between 250 and 400 youth showed up. Officers dispersed the crowd as they began to engage in boxing matches and fights, and that’s when the first shooting occurred, Smith said.

“I think the proactive intelligence gathering at the beginning, the monitoring of the situation throughout the process and then the very rapid response. I’m really proud of our police department as well as our mutual aid partners for helping to achieve that,” he said Hoffmann. “We are a public beach. We are a city that attracts a large crowd of people not only during spring break but all year round. “It’s a great place to come, relax and have fun.”

READ | 1 dead, 3 injured in 3 separate shootings in downtown Jacksonville Beach during busy St. Patrick’s Day

Hoffman said the three shootings that occurred on a busy holiday weekend that coincided with the end of The Players Championship put Jacksonville Beach in the international spotlight.

“We’re under a little bit of a microscope here because we don’t have incidents like that, so we’re getting a lot more attention than maybe other areas,” Hoffman said. “Statistically we are a very safe community.”

He called the senseless violence and tragic loss of life “disappointing and sad.”

“All the emotions at the same time. But I’m also very proud of our police department,” Hoffman said. “And to our business owners who helped ensure the safety of their customers. Everyone really worked together and responded very quickly. “So I think, to me, the quick response and quick action of our police department should put our visitors at ease.”

Many businesses in the bar district acted quickly to protect their customers when police ordered them to close.

Casey Jones told News4JAX he was at Lynch’s Irish Pub a block from the first shooting and had some friends at Surfer The Bar.

“They were supposed to meet us. “It was crazy,” Jones said. “What they said is that when it happened that management rushed them up to the second level; They put things in the windows. “I don’t know what they put on the windows, but it’s very nice that the bars were prepared for this and how they took care of us.”

Jones said that at Lynch’s, management “did a great job” of removing everyone inside from the patio and closing the doors.

Evan Rajta, whose family owns SALT in Jacksonville Beach, said his staff helped an injured bystander.

“All my staff was prepared and we have armed security. We were well prepared. We helped the gentleman who was shot, our staff did,” Rajta said. “Our security chief had medical equipment and they helped him.”

A young woman who was at SALT when the chaos broke out said that less than 5 minutes after she and her group entered the bar, everyone was yelling “Get down!” So they fell to the ground and then they heard gunshots outside.

He said everyone stayed downstairs until it was safe to run out of the bar.

Mayor Hoffman joined Chief Smith in asking that anyone with information, cell phone video or social media video about the shootings contact the Jacksonville Beach Police Department at 904-270-1667 and ask for the section of detectives.

“Anything you can provide in terms of help or information. “If you saw anything last night that could help us gather evidence in this case,” Hoffman said.

He also encouraged everyone to continue supporting Jacksonville Beach, its police and its businesses.

“Know that this is a great city. It’s a great city to be mayor. “This is a difficult day to be mayor, but it is also an opportunity to see our staff, our community, our residents and our businesses really come together and help each other,” Hoffman said.

Timeline of the shootings

Smith said the officer assigned to the crowd at the pier began to disperse it around 8 p.m. and that’s when two young men shot each other on the boardwalk near 2nd Avenue North. Both were injured and an innocent bystander was also injured.

RELATED: Timeline of St. Patrick’s Day shootings in Jacksonville Beach

All three were seriously injured but were in stable condition Monday morning.

Smith said officers witnessed the shooting and immediately attempted to apprehend one of the shooters, who ran from the scene and provided medical assistance to the wounded.

The hit-and-run shooter later showed up at a local hospital with a gunshot wound. Smith said the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office lists him as a “certified gang member.” The other shooter and the bystander were taken to the hospital by rescue units.

Jacksonville Beach active shooter scene (WJXT)

Smith said the second incident occurred at 8.13pm when a man wearing a balaclava was seen running past a bar holding a gun and fired. No one was hurt and police found the gun later, Smith said.

The third shooting was reported shortly after 8:30 p.m. in the parking lot of a restaurant on the corner of 1st Street North and Beach Boulevard.

Smith said witnesses told investigators that three men were involved in a “disturbance” and pulled out guns, but only one fired. A 21-year-old young man died at the scene.

Smith said a second gun and multiple shell casings were recovered from the scene.

Smith said no officers fired their weapons because they were concerned about the crowd, but they would have done so, he said, if they thought it was necessary to protect themselves or bystanders.

Again, anyone with information is asked to call the Jacksonville Beach Police Department.

Copyright 2024 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.

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