‘Neighbors are crying out:’ Pastor fights for end to violence after Washington Heights triple murder

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Washington Heights is familiar with gun violence, but a triple murder investigation unfolding at the Calloway Cove Apartments hits close to home for Pastor Philip Mercer.

Pastor Mercer started at Thankful Missionary Baptist on Moncrief about four months ago. He said he is a product of the neighborhood and grew up in the Calloway Cove Apartments.

“It just put something inside of me to let me know — you need to get in the community,” he told Action News Jax’s Robert Grant. “You have to do something that will make a difference.”

Now he’s reaching out to neighbors he said are “crying out for help” in a plea to end the violence. “There are some great people in the community that have the same concerns I have.”

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office continued its investigation Tuesday of a triple murder. Police said it started when gang units heard several shots fired early in the morning. Detectives later found two men and a woman dead inside one of the Calloway Cove Apartments.

Two weeks ago, another deadly shooting killed a 19-year-old less than half a mile away on Ken Knight Drive.

Ben Frazier started the Northside Coalition four years ago to fight the violence. “Where are all these guns coming from and why are so many ending up in underserved and marginalized communities?” he asked of Sheriff Mike Williams. “More police officers are not the answer, more technology is not the answer — we must begin to address the root problem.”

Frazier claimed the root problem is poverty and said job creation in some neighborhoods could be the solution to violence.

Action News Jax reached out to Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman’s office for comment. She covers District 8, which includes both deadly shootings. As of Tuesday evening, she has not yet responded. We also asked the city about Mayor Curry’s Cure Violence Initiative, which started in Northwest Jacksonville in June of 2019. When a representative responds, we will update this story.