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Local civil rights organization hosts rally to disband Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Gang Unit

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A local civil rights organization is demanding the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office disband its gang unit.

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The Jacksonville Community Action Committee hosted a rally Wednesday, along with the family of Lekeian Woods to demand “justice and accountability.”

“We are calling for the disbandment of the racist gang unit he’s a part of and were calling for all of Josue Garriga’s crimes be investigated and we’re calling for accountability of the JSO because it’s unacceptable to have these types of people on the force and for them to have that feeling of invincibility,” organizer Maria Garcia said.

The rally came a week after the arrest of former JSO officer Josue Garriga III, once a member of the gang unit.

The 34-year-old was arrested in Clay County and accused of sex crimes involving a 17-year-old girl.

Maria Garcia, a Jacksonville Community Action Committee organizer, says she wants accountability.

“He killed James Johnson, made fun of it, he was the arresting officer and the person who brutalized Lekeian Woods,” she said.

Garriga was among the officers involved in the bloody arrest of Lekeian Woods last September. He also shot and killed FAMU student, Jamee Johnson, in 2019, during a traffic stop. He was cleared in both cases and the DOJ also cleared JSO of any federal civil rights violations in its use of force during Woods’ arrest.

“I don’t hold any validity to what the Department of Justice says and I definitely don’t to what TK Waters says,” she said.\

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Action News Jax asked JSO for a response to the group’s demands and examples of gang unit successes, they sent us the following statement:

“The Gang Unit was started in 2007 to directly respond to group and/or gang violence and the criminal enterprises associated therein.  This unit has the responsibility of addressing crimes perpetrated by those having ties to a myriad of documented gangs and other organized groups in our City.  The detectives assigned to this unit specialize in recognizing gang and group activity and proactively work to mitigate instances of violence before they occur.  The unit also functions to assist JSO’s Patrol Division along with other investigative units to supplement manpower during complex and long-term criminal group investigations, including Homicides, Robberies, and Aggravated Batteries.

This unit plays a major role in subject intervention as they are routinely involved in “Custom Notifications”.  A key aspect of the “Group Violence Intervention” (GVI) program is that members make contact with at-risk subjects to assist them in removing themselves from the gang or group lifestyle, thereby reducing violent crimes before they occur.  Being an active participant in this outreach strategy for years, JSO has helped countless individuals in removing them from this way of life.

Sheriff Waters introduced this program in our community in 2016 while working as an Assistant Chief at JSO.  As Sheriff, he continues to be a firm believer in the strategy and is confident of its continued success.”

It should be noted the State Attorney’s Office said it’s looking into all of Garriga’s former cases he’s been involved with as an officer.

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