HomeCrimeGPD Chief and State Attorney Address Recent Gun Violence
GPD Chief and State Attorney Address Recent Gun Violence
July 20, 2021
BY LEN CABRERA
State Attorney Brian Kramer and Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones held a joint press conference on July 20 to address the recent gun violence in Gainesville. Both gave brief statements followed by about fifteen minutes of questions.
Brian Kramer started by setting the stage: 7 people have been shot and 1 person killed in the previous 48 hours in east Gainesville; 12 people have been shot and 2 killed in the last 30 days.
He said, “I want to make sure the public understands that the State Attorney’s Office (SAO) and Gainesville Police Department (GPD) are working together very very closely to address this issue.” Kramer pointed out that the SAO has three of its most senior experienced attorneys assigned strictly to prosecuting gun violence crimes.
Kramer’s second point was that the SAO, GPD, and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ASO) are working together “so the community feels safe to come forward and give the information that they may have about what’s been happening with this gun violence.”
Kramer continued, “The people who are willing to come forward have the full protection available under the law.” He emphasized that names are not disclosed whenever possible and that any information provided helps police officers work to solve these crimes and take the people responsible for the gun violence out of the community.
Kramer stressed, “This is going to continue unless the community steps forward and tells the investigators who it is that is doing this. We believe that information is out there and that there is evidence that suggests there are people who know what has happened. We need those folks to come forward.”
Kramer concluded that if people do not come forward with information, “there’s no reason to expect that this type of gun violence will stop any time soon.”
Chief Jones then gave his statement, emphasizing two points: “We’re asking our families, our neighbors, our citizens, if they see anything that is suspicious, give us a call. If you see something, say something.”
Chief Jones said that a lot of guns they find are stolen out of unlocked vehicles. He said, “Please secure your homes and your vehicles if you have weapons.” He recommended that anyone who sees a firearm they know is not theirs and does not belong should call law enforcement to pick it up and get it off the streets.
Chief Jones wanted to assure the public that GPD “is working around the clock to bring those individuals that are responsible for the shootings to justice.” He said they have several open investigations, on which he could not comment.
After their statements, Reverend Milford Griner from the Police Advisory Board asked if the convenience store (the location of the July 18 shooting) has cameras or if there have been discussions about adding cameras to the property. Chief Jones suggested that the issue had been addressed with area businesses. Kramer confirmed that based on other cases around that store, “There are cameras there.”
The locations of the July 18 and July 19 shootings are only six minutes apart by car. When asked if the shootings were related, neither Kramer or Jones would respond because the investigations are still ongoing.
TV20 asked about community forums or discussions to address the issue. Chief Jones said he had hosted several community forums, including one the previous night. He said, “We take information from the public as far as developing an overall strategy as to how we will enhance what we are doing or as far as investigating. So it’s good to hear from the public. We thank those who came out and expressed themselves at these forums.”
Kramer emphasized that social media counts as a community forum, but people need to speak up if they see something in an internal discussion that could help the police. He said, “When people are aware that violence is imminent, that’s the time that those folks need to be communicating with the police department” to show police the threads they need to be aware of.
When asked if they had received tips from the public, Chief Jones simply said, “Yes. We have some leads.” In follow-up, he said they have information, but they would like to have more.
When asked about people afraid to speak out, Kramer said that not everyone who comes forward with information becomes part of the criminal case. Their names are not released if they simply provide background information. He suggested, “They may not have information about what actually happened, but they know that it’s about something that’s ongoing.” He explained that law enforcement “carries that information forward to go from the why of it to the who of it. That’s what we pay the police to do. They don’t need someone to walk in and hand them a signed confession.”
The next question asked about policies being considered, such as a curfew or a gun buyback program. Chief Jones said that gun buyback is under consideration for later this month or early next month. When pressed, he emphasized that Gainesville is a Second Amendment community. The intent is not to remove lawfully-owned guns, but to provide an opportunity and incentive for stolen guns to get off the streets.
TV20 asked what community members could do other than provide information about the incidents themselves. Chief Jones emphasized the importance of “If you see something, say something” and acknowledged that is a more immediate concern to prevent and solve gun violence. He then talked about the importance of awareness and having “safety talks, talks within the community, particularly with our young people.” He said that GPD will be playing flag football against Gainesville High School on Thursday in “an effort to talk about violence and also to break down barriers.”
Next, Chief Jones was asked what was going through his mind after back-to-back shootings when there was a gun violence meeting just two or three weeks ago. Chief Jones’ response: “What’s going through my mind is unacceptable. What is also going through my mind right now is that we have some concerned citizens that are willing to come together and discuss the shootings or the violence that’s occurring in Gainesville and come up with some tangible solutions.”
Kramer said this violence is different than what they’ve seen in the past. He said, “We’re seeing that the perpetrators of these crimes are younger and that the indifference that they have for the safety of other people is greater. That’s creating an environment that is far more dangerous than what we’ve been seeing in the past.” He said the violence could get worse before it gets better.
Another question was asked about a common thread between all the recent shootings. Kramer said there were arrests in the American Legion shooting but no arrests in the more recent shootings, so it’s difficult to make comparisons.
When asked about holding the shooting suspects without bail to keep witnesses safe, Kramer said it is ultimately up to the judge, but they consider the likelihood of the accused returning to court and the danger they pose to the community or to the victim. He said if they are charged as juveniles, they will not be subject to detention for a long period of time. He then stressed, “There are very few people who are shooting people or who have murdered people who are walking around pre-trial.”
A question was asked about a “business watch.” Chief Jones said last Wednesday there was an inaugural meeting of East University Avenue business owners. They are setting up a business watch, similar to a residential community watch. They talked about how to enhance their businesses and work with each other to protect their customers, their facilities, and their employees.
A final question asked what message they have for the families who have lost loved ones or have them hospitalized or injured. Chief Jones said, “My heart goes out to the families.” He wanted them to know: “We take these actions very seriously, and we’re going to vigorously investigate and try to identify those parties that are responsible for doing that. We ask not only the families, but any of the citizens, if there is any information that they can convey to use to please contact us.”
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