Teen shot at community center dies

by: Kristy Wolski Updated:

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A 14-year-old boy died from his injuries Monday after last week's shooting at a community center in Northwest Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office identified the victim as James Thomas, 14.

The shooting happened Friday around 2 p.m. in the parking lot of the Johnnie Walker Community Center on West 20th Street, near Division Street.

Sgt. Dan Janson said the teen was using the community pool and was on a break, eating in the parking lot when shots rang out.  The boy was shot in the head.

“My understanding is that a vehicle entered into the parking lot of the park, some gunfire erupted and the individual was shot,” said Sgt. Janson, with the JSO Homicide Unit. “I can’t say right now whether he was a targeted individual or if he was just a random victim."

Investigators spent hours in the community center parking lot Friday collecting evidence.  Janson said they believe there were multiple people involved in the shooting. No arrests had been made.

He told Action News JSO is looking for a light blue car, but the make and model are unknown. He said they were interviewing several witnesses, including a friend of the victim.

“This should not have happened,” Grand Park community president Lloyd Washington told Action News at the scene. He said just last week he held a meeting at the community center to address recent violence among youths. Washington said some of the young people told him the disputes centered on social media.

“It was a Facebook issue,” said Washington. “And it started from that, to shootings, to payback time.”

At this point, JSO would not reveal a motive.

“There are a lot of rumors that are flying,” said Janson. “Some were saying it was retaliation from another shooting, so nothing is verified at this point.”

Washington said JSO had stepped up patrols at the community center following the community meeting, but he understands officers can’t be there 24-7. Now he said community leaders will need to find new solutions to stop the violence.

“Obviously we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board,” Washington said.

Investigators are looking for a light-blue car in connection with the shooting.

Call Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.  You will remain anonymous and could receive a cash reward of up to $3,000 if your tip leads to an arrest.