Police turn to public in search for gunman at Youth Football Tournament in Mandarin

“Scary, because I had two kids on the field, so it’s like, ‘Which kid do you run to first?’”

Mandarin, Fla. — Investigators with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office are turning to the public in their search for a man who opened fire at a Youth Football Tournament hosted by the Mandarin Athletic Association (MAA) in Greenland Park.

Action News Jax spoke with sports photographer Sterling Jones who says he saw two men arguing before one of them pulled a gun from a backpack and began shooting.

“Everybody’s trying to shield children because you’ve got kids walking all over the place!” said Jones.

A mother who wished to only go by the name “Christy” told Action News Jax that she heard the gunfire when she was at the game.

“Scary, because I had two kids on the field, so it’s like, ‘Which kid do you run to first?’” she said.

“These kids not even comprehending. We’re just doing football today. Then the next thing you know, there’s shooting. Most of them were screaming, crying,” she said.

MAA tells Action News Jax Investigates security was not present for the tournament.

MAA’s president, Jovie Bellin, spoke to Action News Jax Investigates in a phone interview, and shared her immediate reaction to news of the shooting.

“Shock and worry, a lot of concern for all of our families that were out there. After I learned what had happened and everything, it was basically, disappointment,” said Bellin.

Police say at the time of the shooting approximately 500 people, including players and spectators, were at the Park. No one was hurt.

“These are kids we’re talking about. It definitely should be police presence made known throughout the park,” said Jones.

Now, in a release Tuesday, JSO believes the dispute occurred between spectators at the game.

The gunman, according to JSO, is a black male seen wearing a black sweatshirt and a red belt and used a semi-automatic style rifle.

JSO says the promoter of the sporting event is not cooperating with investigators and is now turning to the public so the suspect(s) can be quickly identified.

Action News Jax Investigates reached out to Mayor Lenny Curry for comment on what’s being done to address violence in Jacksonville.

Statement from Mayor Lenny Curry:

“While enforcement is an important part of any crime reduction effort, I know the importance of investing in prevention and intervention programs that address the causes of crime and prevent acts of violence from occurring in the first place. I’m fully committed to making Jacksonville a safer community in partnership with law enforcement and community organizations. That’s why my budget provides Sheriff Mike Williams with the tools, personnel, and resources his officers need to protect and serve. It’s also why we invest in tools, technologies, and strategies to help State Attorney Melissa Nelson and her team prosecute dangerous criminals and keep them off our streets. In addition, we are working to expand mentoring and trauma response for our children. By working with KHA we will continue to implement and refine alternatives to the old juvenile justice models and guide our young people to better opportunities and brighter futures.”

Anyone having any additional information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at 904-630-0500 or by emailing JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org.

To remain anonymous and for a possible reward of up to $3,000.00, please contact First Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.