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Gainesville Police Department bodycam footage shows midtown/downtown chaos over multiple weekends: “It’s bedlam”

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

We have obtained a copy of the video shown by Interim Police Chief Lonnie Scott Sr. to the Gainesville City Commission on May 5, and the 5-minute video can be viewed below. The video mostly shows views from the body cameras of Gainesville Police Department officers while monitoring late-night crowds in midtown and downtown Gainesville.

The video opens with an overhead look at an intersection, where a large number of people are overflowing onto the street.

After an April 9 scan through a bar, it shifts to a March 17 scene at the plaza on the corner of W. University Avenue and NW 17th Street that took place at 1:52 a.m., with multiple fights in view, then a March 20 scene at the same location, also just before 2 a.m., with an injured person on the ground while another fight starts in the background.

The next scene takes place at about 8:00 p.m. on April 17 (Easter) in the parking lot of the Aloha Liquor Store, next door to McDonald’s on E. University Avenue and across the street from Wawa. The woman speaking to the officer says, “They need to move out… This is crazy… They’re going crazy, I can’t handle it.”

At about 11:30 p.m. Easter night, the video shifts to a crowd of people outdoors and shows an officer trying to detain a suspect, who runs. Multiple officers join the chase, and the suspect is handcuffed. At about the same time, we see multiple officers in a parking garage filled with people, many of whom are holding drinks. The officers move from one fight to the next, with some people attacking the officers. About 20 minutes later, an officer responding to a fight sees a subject pulling a gun from his waistband. Video from a citizen on a phone shows the officer after he has taken down the subject, but the gun has disappeared; the officer is scanning the crowd to find it while holding the subject down. While officers move in to protect him, another fight breaks out.

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While showing the video to the city commission, Chief Scott said,  “It’s bedlam… the primary reason we show you that is just to show you that when I tell you that we’re getting to the point where we may not be able to control all the crowds, this is the evidence of it… I’ve never seen it at this level… A large part of that is we’re not just dealing with Gainesville folks; we’re dealing with people from all over the area.”

Scott told the commission, “Gainesville, quite frankly, has become the regional hub for folks in and around this area to come drink and hang out. They come here from as far south as Miami… We asked them why are you coming here from Palatka… and they said we can’t do this in Palatka. And that seemed to be a resounding theme to a lot of the folks coming here, that they can’t do what they do here in Palatka… They can’t drink openly in the parking lots like they do here. And that’s become a serious issue with us… In all candor, there’s only so much we can do with the limited personnel that we have.”

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