The Florida Times-Union
July 26, 2008
Rash of shootings has police fatigued
By MATT COLEMAN,
Chief Rick Graham of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has had enough.
During a news conference Friday afternoon detailing the events behind the second police shooting in a week, he said he has been speaking "way too much" about incidents in which the lives of his men were at risk.
An officer responding to a pre-dawn home invasion in the 11900 block of Beach Boulevard was pinned against his car by another vehicle and shot a 15-year-old suspect inside.
He referred to the suspects involved in the case as "gun-toting thugs" who intentionally rammed their vehicle into the officer's squad car.
The incident was the second police shooting in an explosive week of citywide violence that included 84 aggravated assaults and batteries, 10 homicides and a SWAT standoff.
It was the 15th officer-involved shooting of 2008.
"To say our officers have been busy these past few days is a huge understatement," Sheriff John Rutherford said.
What went down
Graham said an officer shot Jerry Austin McTyre about 2:30 a.m. Friday, moments after three males broke into a Beach Boulevard apartment, robbed two occupants and stole a Dodge Charger belonging to one of the victims.
Officer C.L. Kornegay was the first to arrive at The Palms at Beach Boulevard apartments in response to the home-invasion call. As he drove to the back of the complex, he saw a vehicle moving through the parking lot with its headlights off, Graham said.
When the suspects saw Kornegay, they changed direction and headed for the officer. Just as the officer began to exit his vehicle and draw his weapon, the car struck the door of the squad car, pinning Kornegay between the door and his own vehicle, Graham said.
Kornegay fired several rounds into the vehicle, striking McTyre several times. At the same time, the driver and another assailant fled on foot. Police were still searching for the two Friday. Graham refused to say if McTyre has since identified his two accomplices.
Kornegay was treated and released with minor injuries to his lower extremities, Graham said.
McTyre, a Jacksonville resident who was charged with felony cocaine possession in March, was transported to Shands Jacksonville where he underwent surgery. He was under guard and in stable condition, Graham said.
The teenager has been charged with possession of a short-barrelled shotgun, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Officers also found a loaded handgun and some stolen items inside the vehicle.
Police said the robbers kicked in the apartment door, forced the two occupants to the floor and tied them up before robbing them. The victims, 25- and 26-year-old men, suffered minor injuries.
Graham said police are still trying to determine if the attackers knew the victims before the robbery.
A city responds
The spike in violent crime comes as Mayor John Peyton is in the process of selling his Jacksonville Journey plan to City Council members. The anti-crime initiative blends youth-crime prevention and felon rehabilitation with an increased police presence to slow the violence.
Peyton and Rutherford both lauded programs like the Eastside Police Athletic League center at its reopening ceremony Friday morning as viable tools to keep kids off the street. Peyton said even an increase in the number of police officers would only be a temporary stopgap and residents need to band together around community programs designed to fight this culture of crime.
"We are better than this as a city," Peyton said. "There is no panacea for this problem, and frankly, I'm tired of seeing families grieving over loved ones claimed by this violence."
But changing a culture is a lofty goal, and Rutherford and Peyton both cautioned that it won't happen over night.
"This isn't something that's just going to go away," the sheriff said.
Jacksonville's 2008 homicide total jumped to 83 over the past week. It was at 88 this time last year.
Peyton said he's greeted with these stark numbers every day during his morning meeting.
"It's a terrible way to start the day."
Times-Union writers Jim Schoettler and Rand Miranda contributed to this report.
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Use of force Jacksonville officers have shot 15 suspects so far this year, compared with 19 in all of 2007.
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