Jacksonville Police officers are investigating a string of incidents stretching from Sept. 6 to early Monday morning involving around seven people.
Jacksonville Police Chief Reece Daniel said the seven people are self-proclaimed gang members and students of Lon Morris College.
“We had gotten two calls of shots fired at the Inn,” Daniel said in reference to America’s Best Value Inn, a makeshift residency hall on East Rusk Street currently being used by Lon Morris College to house around 300 students. “One was Saturday night to Sunday morning and the other was Sunday night to Monday morning.”
Daniel said prior to these shootings, on Sept. 6, there was a disturbance involving two of the individuals, a victim and a suspect, at Walmart at around 10 p.m.
“Some of the same participants had gotten into a fight and one of them fired at the other,” Daniel said. “These are self-proclaimed Bloods and Crips.”
He added the first incident happened at Walmart when one member displayed a firearm and made gang threats to another member.
Daniel said on Sept. 11, one or more shots were fired by the same suspect at the same victim on a street in the neighborhood adjoining the inn. The shots missed, but Daniel said the next night five rounds were fired at the victim by the suspect. These missed as well.
“The victim said he was standing in the parking lot at the Inn and the suspect was standing on Avalon Street,” Daniel said.
He added no casings were found and said a revolver might’ve been used. Daniel also said seven males and females, including the victim and suspect, were identified to have participated or witnessed the shootings.
“All are self-proclaimed gang members and Lon Morris College students,” Daniel said.
The issue may be two rival gangs fighting over a self-proclaimed gang member dating a female member of the other gang, Daniel said. This case is still under investigation and no names have been released as of press time.
“The important thing for me is residents of the neighborhood next to the Inn understand I have one priority,” Daniel said, “to make them feel safe in their neighborhood and improve their quality of life.”
Daniel added the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been contacted for aid on this case and also said federal prosecution will be requested as well.
Lon Morris College Director of Public Relations Afton Barber said the college has put into effect a zero tolerance curfew at the Inn for the next 30 days, to be enforced by a security officer stationed at the Inn through the night. This curfew will be in effect immediately and will run Sunday through Thursday from 11 p.m. to dawn and Friday and Saturday from midnight to dawn.
“Students will be suspended and possibly expelled for violation,” Barber said. “They are expected to be in their rooms.”
Barber said the Inn had previously maintained a similar curfew, but said the penalty for breaking this zero tolerance version is far steeper.
“Our student safety is the college’s number one priority,” Barber said.”
She also said the college hasn’t positively identified which students are involved in the incidents and added the security department is currently reviewing security footage.
“We are sure there were probably LMC students involved,” Barber said. She added expulsion is on the table for those found to have participated.
These incidents trail prior community reports from the neighborhood adjoining the Inn of noise and other disturbances at late hours of the night. Barber reported eight LMC students as having been expelled Monday for various reasons not related to the recent alleged gang activity.
Lon Morris officials will meet with residents of the neighborhood Thursday at a closed meeting to discuss the situation between the Inn and the community.