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Police report 3 separate shootings within 1 hour in Jacksonville Beach

Police believe multiple shooters were involved in Sunday's incidents near the beachfront in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
File photo of Jacksonville Beach, Florida, police cruisers.
Posted at 7:37 AM, Mar 18, 2024

Three separate shootings occurred within one hour Sunday evening, fatally wounding one person and injuring three others in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, Police Chief Gene Paul Smith told reporters on Monday. 

According to Smith, there were three separate unrelated shootings, with all three incidents happening with officers in the area amid ramped up patrols. 

The first shooting happened near a Best Western hotel around 7:50 p.m. The shooting happened in the presence of officers, and the police were immediately able to respond and give aid. Smith said that two shooters fired and wounded each other. A third person, he said, was an "innocent bystander" not from the area. All three people were in serious condition but stable, as of Monday morning, according to Smith. 

No arrests have been made from this incident.

In the next incident at 8:13 p.m., officers saw a person run by with a pistol near a bar where shots were fired. A foot chase occurred and Smith said the suspect got away. No one was injured at the scene of the second incident, according to Smith. 

Eighteen minutes later, officers heard gunfire behind another nearby bar. Smith said officers were on the scene of the third shooting within seconds. Smith said a 21-year-old male died at the scene. 

Smith said three people brandished firearms during the third incident, only one of whom fired their gun. That suspect also got away, Smith said. 

"Based on multiple shooters unknown, multiple victims unknown, I decided to issue an active threat alert through our reverse 911, lock down all bars and immediately evacuate the downtown area," he said. 

Smith said no officers fired their weapons due to the risk to bystanders as the area was crowded with St. Patrick's Day revelers. 

"We would have applied that deadly force if we could have," Smith said. 

Authorities had ordered people in the area to shelter in place, which was lifted shortly before 11 p.m.

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Evan Rajta, who owns the Salt bar and restaurant in Jacksonville Beach, told WJXT-TVthat one of the shootings occurred after a fight broke out. 

“My whole staff was prepared and we have armed security. We were well-prepared. We helped the gentleman that was shot, our staff did,” Rajta told WJXT. “Our head of security had some medical gear on him, and they helped him out.”

Smith said that police had stepped up patrols after learning of hundreds of teens and young adults would gather at a pier Sunday afternoon to fight each other.