Two home invasions in Gadsden County over the weekend left one suspect dead, and another injured.
Now, Sheriff Morris Young is encouraging citizens to arm themselves.
The Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference on Wednesday with representatives from municipal law enforcement agencies and several other local leaders.
The sheriff said there has been a recent spike in violent crimes.
Because of the recent spike, local law enforcement agencies have joined together to form Operation Summer of Safety (S.O.S.).
“This is coming from a lot of our youth, ages 15-25,” Young said.
He said there’s been an uptick in burglaries, car thefts, and home invasions.
Young said citizens have a right to use justifiable force to protect themselves and their property.
“Citizens have a right to protect their safety at their house,” Young said.
Young said he’s partnering with Talon Tactical to make sure Gadsden County citizens are prepared to own guns.
He said his office will release more information about that initiative at a later date.
One of the home invasions occurred in Havana on Friday night
“We know from our investigation our burglars are armed,” Young expressed.
The sheriff said criminals are going to the extreme to obtain guns.
“Even if your vehicle is locked, your contents in them are not safe,” Young said. “Unless your vehicle is in a locked garage, anything you have in there such as guns and other contacts are not safe.”
Young said most of those who are committing the crimes, are obtaining guns by breaking into homes and cars.
He also confirmed that an AR-15 was recently stolen out of a Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office vehicle and has not yet been recovered.
As for the home invasion on Havana Highway on Saturday, 19-year-old Demario McCall walked a man inside his Havana home at gun point around noon and then robbed him.
“As he walked him inside, he started to steal contents in the house,” Young said. “A fight pursued; a gun was taken from the suspect and actually went off in the house and the suspect fled.”
Just hours later, the suspect returned to the scene of the crime.
About 12:48 McCall went back to that home on Havana Highway, but that time he had one or two others with him, Young said.
“They kicked on the door; a shot was fired from the suspect,” the sheriff said. “The homeowner took action in his hand and killed one of the suspects.”
Gadsden Board of Commissioners newly appointed chair Ronterious Green, who was also at the press conference, said McCall was his cousin.
“It is very key, each one of us, if you see something, you hear something, you have to say something,” Green said.
Green said the problem is people hear it and see it but don’t say anything.
“We can save some of our children’s lives if we say,” Green said. “That could’ve been your child, that could’ve been your son, that could’ve been your daughter.
Green said McCall didn’t come from a bad home.
“I’ve watched his grandmother; I’ve watched how she has raised him to the best of her ability,” Green said.
He said everyone must step up to the plate.
“Even if it is your grandchild or your child, it can be your child’s life that you’re saving,” Green said.
At the time of his death, McCall was out on a $7,500 bond after being arrested in February in connection to a string of burglaries in Quincy.
During that arrest, he was also charged with grand theft of a firearm and resisting an officer without violence.
The City of Quincy also had a home invasion over the weekend.
Assistant Chief Leroy Smith said on June 25, a man was out walking his dog on East Franklin Street when he noticed he was being followed.
“Once the gentleman arrived back to his home – he had left his door unlocked – once he arrived back to his home his door was locked,” Smith said.
Smith said once the man entered his home, he asked his wife if she locked the door.
She said she did not.
“So that gave him reason to believe that someone was inside his home,” Smith said.
Smith said the victim retrieved a weapon and as he was walking toward the back of his home, he was shot.
Smith said both the victim and suspect were treated for their injuries and released.
He said the suspect, 20-year-old Colin Relford, was arrested on charges of attempted murder and home invasion.
Relford was also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
This was not Rellford’s first run in with law enforcement.
In January, he was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and aggravated assault with a firearm.
Relford was released in April on a $17,500 bond.
He was also released from prison last May after serving 3 years in prison following multiple felony convictions.
Smith said from March through June 15, there were 32 Quincy businesses burglarized.
He also said there were 24 reported home burglaries.
“Approximately 80 percent of the burglaries were committed by juveniles,” Smith added.
Smith also reminded citizens that the City of Quincy has a curfew ordinance for minors under the age of 17 from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The City of Midway had a rash of burglaries over the weekend as well.
Interim Chief Kristi Cobb said many people in Midway have been leaving their vehicles unlocked.
She said some people feel they don’t have to lock their doors in Gadsden County, as they feel that it’s safe.
“You do have people that are deviant, and they want to come in and burglarize and take your things, but in order to make an impact in this community we have to work together,” Cobb said. “We have to make sure that you’re calling each other, not just putting it on the neighborhood app.”
Cobb said one problem that she’s running into in Midway is people sharing videos and posting about crimes on social media, but not reporting the crimes to law enforcement.
“If we don’t know, we can’t help; if we don’t know we can’t work the crime,” Cobb said.
Chattahoochee Chief Derick Mordica said he’s also dealing with a lack of communication.
He said it’s not just among the citizens, but also with law enforcement officials.
“We may know something in Chattahoochee that may have occurred in Tallahassee, and a lot of time that’s how we solve the cases,” Mordica said. “A relative gets involved in these crimes and they fail to administer that information.”
Following up with what Mordica said, Gretna’s Chief Brian Alexander added that crime does not have a jurisdictional line.
“Individuals from Gretna may go to Havana or Chattahoochee to commit crimes, so we all need to work together,” Alexander said.
Sheriff Young sent a message out to parents to question their children if they are bringing home items that the parents have not purchased.
“Call us so we can verify if it’s stolen,” Young said.
The sheriff said they will also be going after adults if they are found with stolen items on their property.
“We’re going to use everything in our power to use every Florida statute out there to not only come after these bad children, but we’re going to come after the grown-ups who we think sometimes are pushing the juveniles to do this because of some of the soft punishment that juveniles experience.”
Erin Hill – Gadsden County News Service