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18-year-old charged with first-degree murder for September shooting at Gardenia Gardens; he was already in jail for violating probation on a previous attempted murder conviction

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Jerquay Lavon Freeman, 18, has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Romeo Sheppard on September 1, 2022, at Gardenia Gardens. Freeman was already in the Alachua County Jail after being charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon on September 10. Freeman was 17 at the time of the murder and was on probation after serving two years in adult prison following a plea of nolo contendere to charges of aggravated assault, attempted second-degree murder, burglary, and theft.

Gainesville Police Department (GPD) officers responded to Gardenia Gardens, 1731 NE 8th Avenue, at about 10:40 p.m. on September 1, in response to a report that a person had been shot. Officers found a victim with multiple gunshot wounds in the driver’s seat of a white Volkswagen Jetta; the victim, later identified as Romeo Sheppard, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Detectives reviewed surveillance video from the apartment complex and reportedly saw two people arrive on foot from the southwest, walking toward B building, where Sheppard was sitting in the parked car. The two people stopped walking and stood behind a dumpster about 40 feet away from Sheppard’s car for several seconds, then reportedly approached the car and opened fire. Both people appear to be holding handguns; both reportedly stood on the driver’s side of the car, where the window was down, and shot at Sheppard. One of them put his left hand on the A pillar of the car before they both fled.

The two people were wearing face masks; one wore a dark-colored long-sleeved jacket with a hood, dark pants, and white shoes. The other wore a dark short-sleeve t-shirt and baggy gray pants; he also had a white cloth wrapped around his left hand and forearm. Detectives later learned that the white cloth covered a tattoo that was seen on Freeman’s arm in another surveillance video from the same night.

GPD Forensics processed the car and located a palm print on the A pillar of the car.

Freeman was arrested on September 10 after a GPD officer made contact with the occupants of a car that was parked at a City park while it was closed; an officer saw Freeman placing something under his seat, and as Freeman got out of the car, the officer reportedly saw the handle of a pistol. Freeman was placed in handcuffs, and the pistol was removed from the vehicle and found to have a round in the chamber. As a convicted felon, Freeman was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and has been held without bond since that date for violating probation.

Detectives received information that Freeman had discussed the murder on a call with a jail inmate. Detectives obtained a warrant for data from Freeman’s cell phone, which provided location information.

Detectives obtained surveillance video from locations corresponding to the cell phone data and reportedly observed that Freeman was with Aziel Brown-Gainey (who was arrested on October 13 and charged with murder) two hours before the murder. The location data also reportedly placed Freeman at the scene of the murder at the time it happened, and surveillance video also shows Brown-Gainey’s car in the area of the murder at the time.

Detectives also reportedly obtained an Instagram video showing Freeman, Brown-Gainey, and two others approximately one hour before the murder. In the video, Freeman is wearing the same face mask that the suspect in the Gardenia Gardens surveillance video was wearing.

Detectives interviewed Freeman on November 1 about the murder. Post Miranda, Freeman reportedly said he was not with Brown-Gainey on the night of the murder, but he ultimately admitted that they were together at a convenience store a few hours before the murder. Two other witnesses helped detectives develop further probable cause that Freeman was the second shooter on September 1.

Freeman was charged as an adult with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for threatening to shoot someone in July 2020, when he was 15. He was also charged as an adult with two counts of attempted murder in the first degree and one count of possession of a firearm by an adjudicated delinquent for shooting two people on September 26, 2020. He was later charged as an adult for a vehicle burglary and theft that took place on September 21, 2020. On July 27, 2021, he entered pleas of nolo contendere to the aggravated assault charge in the first case, a lesser included charge of attempted second-degree murder in the second case, and the burglary and theft charges.

He was sentenced to 46 days (time served) for the burglary and theft charges by Judge Phillip Pena and sentenced as a youthful offender to two years of prison, followed by four years of probation, by Judge David Kreider in the other two cases (served concurrently). The State also agreed to dismiss all pending burglary investigations as a condition of the plea agreement. He was ordered to pay restitution to four victims, presumably victims of the burglaries.

Freeman was released from state prison on August 12, 2022. In addition to the felony gun possession charge on September 10, he was charged with violation of probation and is being held without bond on that charge. A first-degree premeditated murder charge has now been added.

Articles about arrests are based on reports from law enforcement agencies. The charges listed are taken from the arrest report and/or court records and are only accusations. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

  • He tried once, was successful the 2nd time. Anyone willing to be next?

    He needs….deserves to be put down.

    Protect yourselves, some people don’t care about you.

  • This little bitch deserves everything he gets. Bitch boys will be treated like the bitches they are.

    • Are you a dad and if so how would you feel in this certain type situation? And how would you go about your future?

      • If he had a real Dad, this would have never happened. He is a result of community dysfunction and government encouragement for families to remain single parent, through the rules for the free government money.

      • Nope because I didn’t kill or hurt anybody. This is getting old. This doesn’t move me. Not one bit.

        • But you could have. Multiple times. You just got lucky even though you disregarded the lives of those around you. You endangered countless innocent people. Don’t make it seem like you driving drunk was noble or makes you one hair better than any of the other people you so consistently demonize. Say less.

          • You REALLY need to get laid. That was over 10 years ago. Come up with some new material.

          • So either acknowledge that people can change (like you claim you’ve done) or stop so harshly judging other people for causing harm (like you’ve done multiple times). Either way, self-forgiveness is an important part of healing and moving forward. Spend some time with the person in your mirror. They need you.

          • Just another white liberal waxing self righteous. Murderers are beyond rehab. If you think otherwise, feel free to visit him in jail or lead a prayer group? Not willing to do that!??? STFU.

  • Every since we was not allowed to spank our kids all this came about and I think it’s a shame that we are not allowed to discipline our children anymore because this is the result of all that Governor a lot and Charles had passed the law that we were no longer allowed to spank our children or discipline them and because of that like I said this is the type of stuff that happens a single parent families have to work two jobs in order to maintain a four family home which is three kids and one mother the father is always missing I think it’s a shame and I think that we should be able to discipline our children again like we were allowed to pack in the day they don’t understand what it means to work or have any ethnics behind us and that is the white man’s law. Point blank and I am white with three mixed kids there are mulatto and that is there race

    • Spanking is legal in all 50 states. Corporal punishment is legal in schools in Florida. I doubt it is done much here in Alachua County. We need strong male principals to paddle the crap out of the trouble-makers.

      • Discipline of students is not allowed or is sharply curtailed in liberal school districts, like ours. The result is the racial split they whine about. As long as acting out (all the way up to UF) with no consequences is allowed, there will be no improvement in the situation.

  • And it’s sad because they won’t publicize my real comment that I had to say about missing dads and single parent homes and how children had to grow up without that other parent

  • This is way past the point of parent disciplining their kids. After he was involved 8n his first shooting and basically got away with it he has no fear of discipline or punishment. Lock him away for life. He killed someone and actually him and his wannabe gangsta buddy planned it out moments before it happened and then lied about his involvement. Life in prison is better option for him. The only other option is to put him down like you would a rabid dog period.

  • Honestly, I just sit down and read this. I am Romeo Shepard the victim died in gardenia gardens apartment don’t get me wrong. I want to think GPD in the investigators for working hard on this case for not giving up if we’re giving us a little breathing room, but honestly, this little boy have mental issues, I blame the department of justice. I’m reading this basically in teals for him. All that stuff they claiming he did or he did he only got two years. Wow they could’ve been stop this KILLER This little boy honestly needed help still do. I have a 19-year-old son he was going through some things and I know he was because he was doing things for attention and he did get my attention because I had a prayer little harder for him. He messed up twice and the courts etc gave him five years 2 end and three out on house arrest, and he didn’t do nearly the things this KILLER did..SMH long story short some people can get away doing bad thing to people & some people they throw the book at them for little of nothing. My god!! You state attorneys judges etc yeah, y’all need to get on one accord because anyone is killing & robbing or raping need more time that you can give we don’t want none of them kind of people out. I see drug dealers get more time than this and that’s a shame. Do my vote even count? make me don’t even want to and me feel some type of why and the justice system I’m fucking upset 😭

  • maybe we should start charging these soft on crime DA’s & Judges as accessory to murder for low bail & sentences!

  • Perfect example why the wrist slaps the liberals like don’t work. This started at age 15 and ended not just murder but an execution, at age 17. He still should have been locked up for the first ‘gun violence’ crime committed at 15. Two more after, resulting in a heinous
    murder.

  • Victim’s family should sue both the Housing Authority for maintaining that crime breeding farm Gardenia in Duval, AND the judges and lawyers who let the creep out.

    • For everyone that got so much to say about what happened where were y’all when it was time to talk yeah no where stfudont talk now foreal

  • In anybody that got something to say y’all know what it is now I’m talking to everybody that got something to say about what happened talk to me bitches I’m her hello

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