Jacksonville police shot a juvenile who they said fired a gun into a crowd leaving the First Coast vs. Ribault high school football game when it was called off in the third quarter Friday night after fights broke out inside the stadium.
The youth was taken to the hospital with a bullet graze to the head and a gunshot wound to the lower torso, Alan Parker, Sheriff’s Office chief of investigations, said at the scene.
Information wasn’t available about his condition, and there were no reports as of Saturday afternoon of any other injuries at the game. It marks yet another shooting at a Jacksonville high school football game over several years.
The Sheriff’s Office later identified the boy as a 15-year-old, but the Times-Union is not naming him because of his age and no one else was hurt. He has been charged with discharging a firearm on school property and carrying a concealed firearm.
Parker said the shooting happened about 9 p.m. near the Duval Station and Starratt roads, which is on the perimeter of the First Coast campus.
A student told Times-Union news partner First Coast News that fights started breaking out and she heard about 20 gunshots.
Police had received information ahead of time that there was going to be a large fight at the game and deployed additional resources there, Parker said. Fights were confirmed during the game, so the schools decided to put a halt to the contest in the third quarter and just cancel it, Duval County Public Schools Police Chief Greg Burton said.
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Before the shooting, two officers had a couple of individuals in custody in a traffic stop on school grounds with firearms. While they were taking them in, the game let out and a brawl broke out, Parker said. So officers diverted there and were attempting to break up the fight. The juvenile, not actually in the stands but outside, was spotted shooting into the crowd.
He did not comply with commands to drop the gun, Parker said. The officers chased him through the parking lot into a wooded area. They fired multiple times. The suspect was hit two times, grazed in the head and shot in the lower extremities, but was able to get through the woods and hop a fence. He got across the street but was detained by another officer outside a business. He still had the gun in his pants.
Parker said the assault possibly stemmed from a family dispute with a cousin.
The two officers have been in the department about six years, and it was their first shooting. Their names have not been released under the state’s Marsy’s Law.
At this early stage of the investigation, it was unknown whether the suspect had been inside the game prior to the shooting, Parker said.
Burton said extra security as well as the district’s new safety protocols prevented a greater tragedy.
“We did have our new weapons detection system here, the Evolv system, so we’re pretty sure no weapons got into the game, into the bowl,” said Burton, noting their precautions include searching bags, using hand-held metal detector wands and the Evolv system.
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A year ago the Duval County School Board approved a contract to purchase the new Evolv metal detectors, which are the same ones used at Disney and the Florida Theatre. The district agreed to pay $7 million for 80 to 85 detectors at the 23 high schools.
They can screen 4,000 people per hour without ever having to stop, empty pockets and take off bags.
Burton said they also had their police K-9 and drug-detection dogs at the game. In addition, they take other security precautions that he declined to detail because they are “confidential.”
“My message to the parents is we are doing everything possible in order to make sure your students are safe at our sporting events,” he said. “We always have an operational plan for security. We did beef up this operational plan because of the information we had received. Working with JSO, they are great partners with us. We were able to beef up security quite a bit to prevent something that could have been an even greater tragedy than what occurred today.”
Duval County schools interim Superintendent Dana Kriznar told the Times-Union via email it was “tremendously disappointing that community violence has impacted one of our high school football games.”
Kriznar said she was “very thankful” for the plan school district police put into place in partnership with the Sheriff’s Office. She also lauded the principals of both schools who made the decision to end the game early — saying “they put student safety first, and student safety is our number-one value.”
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Ribault athletic director William Griffin tweeted on his X account his appreciation for staff and officials’ precautions and efforts.
“Thank you to the SSO’s, JSO, Coach Ram [Pinckney], Coach [Marty] Lee, Principals Dr. [Gregory] Bostic & Mr. [Justin] Fluent and the administrations of Ribault & First Coast High Schools for keeping our student-athletes and fans as safe as possible,” he posted referring to school security officers, the Sheriff’s Office and school administrators.
In the past Duval County Public Schools shifted to earlier games and moved some to Saturdays to try to curtail violence. It’s unclear if this latest shooting will affect any future games.
“Any event like this leads to a review to determine if there are additional measures that need to be put in place for safety and security going forward,” Kriznar said. “I will work with police leaders to conduct that analysis quickly and support law enforcement in any way needed to ensure future football games are as safe as they can be. Safety and security will always be our most important goal.”
Past high school football game shootings in Jacksonville
Jacksonville has had some problems with shootings at football games in the past. Here are a few others.
Friday night’s incident was the Sheriff’s Office’s 10th shooting of a suspect, seven of whom have died, this year. Last year 12 people were shot by Jacksonville police, eight fatally, according to Times-Union records.
Anyone with information about the incident can contact the Sheriff’sOffice at (904) 630-0500 or First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-8477 (845-TIPS) or text 8477 to remain anonymous and be eligible for rewards. Or email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org or email@example.com.