Jacksonville, FL — Less than a day after a 7-year-old was fatally shot outside a home in Durkeeville, there's an intense push for anyone in the community to come forward with information.
Sheriff Mike Williams announced Crime Stoppers is now offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in this case. You can submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-866-845-TIPS.
“Police can’t solve all these crimes alone, they need help. They need help from the community,” says First Coast Crime Stoppers Executive Director Wyllie Hodges. “There’s no excuse whatsoever for someone not to come forward in one fashion or the other.”
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JSO now says there were about six people in the yard outside of a home on Mt. Herman Street last night, drinking and smoking marijuana. Among the crowd, according to Williams, were multiple convicted felons, a convicted drug dealer, at least one person with known gang ties, and 7-year-old Tashawn Gallon. JSO says a small or medium sized SUV stopped in front of the home, and at least one person inside started shooting. One person in the yard told JSO he picked up a nearby gun and started firing back, according to Williams. Gallon was in the crossfire.
“At the end of the day, we’re not talking about somebody firing a gun up in the air, we’re talking about the death of a seven-year-old little boy. If you can’t get behind that, then something’s wrong with you,” Williams says.
An adult man was also injured in the shooting and fled the scene, bringing himself to the hospital. JSO says he is not cooperating with the investigation, and has actually been arrested on an unrelated, outstanding weapons charge. JSO says many of the other people in the yard are not cooperating either, but Williams promised to pursue charges against anyone who is openly obstructing the investigation or giving them false information.
“We’re going to solve this case, we’re going to bring this person to justice, I promise you that,” Williams says.
While those immediately involved are not being helpful, Williams says they have been getting tips from the community already- but they need more. At this time, the motive is unknown- including whether the shooting could be gang related- and police are still investigating who the actual intended target was as well.
“But here’s what I know right now. There is someone on the street today that is responsible for the shooting death of a 7-year-old little boy. And I can promise you that we are going to move heaven and Earth, and kick in a few doors, until we bring that person to justice,” Williams says.
You can also submit information directly to JSO by calling 904-630-0500 or emailing JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org.
This is the fifth juvenile shot in Jacksonville in less than two weeks, and Williams and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry say they continue to focus on a two-pronged approach for cutting back this violence.
The first part- addressing the most immediate concerns- comes with enforcement. Williams says they have more officers going through training to hit the streets and increase the size of the force. They're also leveraging new initiatives like ShotSpotter and a ballistics tracking system, as well as partnerships with state and federal law enforcement.
With treating the immediate "symptoms", though, Williams and Curry says they also strategically invest in the future. The most recent project is the reorganized network of groups and resources aimed at at-risk youth, known as the Kids Hope Alliance.
“It’s an investment that’s long term. We need to make sure that our elected officials in the future and the ones that sit here today remain committed to these programs, regardless of how hard the work is or how long it takes, because it does change lives,” Curry says.
Williams says he’s also open to other options, like gun buyback events that are being considered by at least one City Councilwoman, who represents the area. He says, in his experience, those events don’t directly intercept the guns used in crimes like this, but it could prevent the theft of some guns, while also getting the community talking and engaged.
All parties again emphasized that Crime Stoppers is completely anonymous. While Williams acknowledged that some people don’t come forward because they fear the violence and retaliation, he urged anyone thinking that to reconsider, because your identity will not be known through Crime Stoppers. Additionally, he said they’re looking for tips not only from people who were in the area last night, but anyone who may have heard conversations or information before or after the shooting.