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Crime Stoppers Offering $10,000 Reward for Information Leading to Arrest of Suspect in Fatal Shooting of 7-year-old

Less than a day after a 7-year-old was fatally shot outside a home in Durkeeville, there’s an intense push for anyone in the community to come forward with information.

Sheriff Mike Williams announced Crime Stoppers is now offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in this case. You can submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-866-845-TIPS.

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JSO now says there were about six people in the yard outside of a home on Mt. Herman Street last night, drinking and smoking marijuana. Among the crowd, according to Williams, were multiple convicted felons, at least one person with known gang ties, and 7-year-old Tashawn Gallon. JSO says a small or medium sized SUV stopped in front of the home, and at least one person inside started shooting. One person in the yard told JSO he picked up a nearby gun and started firing back, according to Williams. Gallon was in the crossfire.

An adult man was also injured in the shooting and fled the scene, bringing himself to the hospital. JSO says he is not cooperating with the investigation, and has actually been arrested on an unrelated, outstanding weapons charge. JSO says many of the other people in the yard are not cooperating either, but Williams promised to pursue charges against anyone who is openly obstructing the investigation or giving them false information.

While those immediately involved are not being helpful, Williams says they have been getting tips from the community already- but they need more. At this time, the motive is unknown- including whether the shooting could be gang related- and police are still investigating who the actual intended target was as well.

“But here’s what I know right now. There is someone on the street today that is responsible for the shooting death of a 7-year-old little boy. And I can promise you that we are going to move heaven and Earth, and kick in a few doors, until we bring that person to justice,” Williams says.

You can also submzit information directly to JSO by calling 904-630-0500 or emailing JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org.

Williams and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry spoke more about the short and long term efforts to cut back on violence among youth. This is a developing story that will be updated through the day.

This story was written by reporters at News 104.5, WOKV.

Crime Stoppers offering $10,000 reward for information leading to arrest of suspect in fatal shooting of 7-year-old

Less than a day after a 7-year-old was fatally shot outside a home in Durkeeville, there’s an intense push for anyone in the community to come forward with information.

Sheriff Mike Williams announced Crime Stoppers is now offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in this case. You can submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-866-845-TIPS. 

“Police can’t solve all these crimes alone, they need help. They need help from the community,” says First Coast Crime Stoppers Executive Director Wyllie Hodges. “There’s no excuse whatsoever for someone not to come forward in one fashion or the other.”

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JSO now says there were about six people in the yard outside of a home on Mt. Herman Street last night, drinking and smoking marijuana. Among the crowd, according to Williams, were multiple convicted felons, a convicted drug dealer, at least one person with known gang ties, and 7-year-old Tashawn Gallon. JSO says a small or medium sized SUV stopped in front of the home, and at least one person inside started shooting. One person in the yard told JSO he picked up a nearby gun and started firing back, according to Williams. Gallon was in the crossfire.

“At the end of the day, we’re not talking about somebody firing a gun up in the air, we’re talking about the death of a seven-year-old little boy. If you can’t get behind that, then something’s wrong with you,” Williams says.

An adult man was also injured in the shooting and fled the scene, bringing himself to the hospital. JSO says he is not cooperating with the investigation, and has actually been arrested on an unrelated, outstanding weapons charge. JSO says many of the other people in the yard are not cooperating either, but Williams promised to pursue charges against anyone who is openly obstructing the investigation or giving them false information.

“We’re going to solve this case, we’re going to bring this person to justice, I promise you that,” Williams says.

While those immediately involved are not being helpful, Williams says they have been getting tips from the community already- but they need more. At this time, the motive is unknown- including whether the shooting could be gang related- and police are still investigating who the actual intended target was as well.

“But here’s what I know right now. There is someone on the street today that is responsible for the shooting death of a 7-year-old little boy. And I can promise you that we are going to move heaven and Earth, and kick in a few doors, until we bring that person to justice,” Williams says.

You can also submit information directly to JSO by calling 904-630-0500 or emailing JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org.

This is the fifth juvenile shot in Jacksonville in less than two weeks, and Williams and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry say they continue to focus on a two-pronged approach for cutting back this violence. 

The first part- addressing the most immediate concerns- comes with enforcement. Williams says they have more officers going through training to hit the streets and increase the size of the force. They’re also leveraging new initiatives like ShotSpotter and a ballistics tracking system, as well as partnerships with state and federal law enforcement.

With treating the immediate “symptoms”, though, Williams and Curry says they also strategically invest in the future. The most recent project is the reorganized network of groups and resources aimed at at-risk youth, known as the Kids Hope Alliance.

“It’s an investment that’s long term. We need to make sure that our elected officials in the future and the ones that sit here today remain committed to these programs, regardless of how hard the work is or how long it takes, because it does change lives,” Curry says.

Williams says he’s also open to other options, like gun buyback events that are being considered by at least one City Councilwoman, who represents the area. He says, in his experience, those events don’t directly intercept the guns used in crimes like this, but it could prevent the theft of some guns, while also getting the community talking and engaged.

All parties again emphasized that Crime Stoppers is completely anonymous. While Williams acknowledged that some people don’t come forward because they fear the violence and retaliation, he urged anyone thinking that to reconsider, because your identity will not be known through Crime Stoppers. Additionally, he said they’re looking for tips not only from people who were in the area last night, but anyone who may have heard conversations or information before or after the shooting.

Jacksonville’s Mayor Honors Raines High Champions

An honor indeed!

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry honored the William M. Raines football team with a proclamation today.   

The team won their second state championship back in December.  

The Vikings reigned supreme against Cocoa High School with a 13-10 victory in the FHSAA Class 4A state championship.

The last time a team won a championship was back in 1997 and that was also William M. Raines.  

Congratulations Vikings!

8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle murder: Donald Smith convicted

A jury has found Donald Smith guilty for the 2013 kidnapping, rape, and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.

It took just 14 minutes for the jury to deliver the unanimous verdicts. The penalty phase- which will decide if Smith faces a death sentence- begins Tuesday at 9AM.

There were 19 witnesses called by the State over two days, with State Attorney Melissa Nelson on the prosecution team. One of the most emotional moments came right at the beginning, as Cherish’s mother explained what happened the night of the abduction, telling the jury she never would have let Cherish go with Smith, if she knew he was planning to take the girl from the Northside Walmart where they were shopping. Some jurors were visibly crying during the day two testimony of Chief Medical Examiner Valerie Rao, as she showed pictures from Cherish’s autopsy, and explained that the girl suffered severe sexual trauma and died of asphyxiation because of tremendous pressure applied to her face and neck.

Through the testimony overall, prosecutors painted a clear sequence of the events that led up to Cherish’s kidnapping, the capture of Smith and recovery of Cherish’s body, and then even a covertly recorded conversation between Smith and another inmate.

Ahead of the abduction, Cherish’s mother told jurors how Smith offered to buy clothing for her girls, tricking her in to believing she was safe and that his wife would meet them with the money. It’s when Smith went to the front of that Northside Walmart to purportedly get food for the family, that he instead leaves, with Cherish following. Employees of both the Dollar General where Smith met the family and the Walmart where Cherish was last seen alive verified surveillance footage for the panel, while a formerly married couple described an odd exchange they experienced with Smith in the Walmart parking lot.

It was an alert JSO officer on patrol that first spotted Smith’s van the next day, and a K9 officer joined the pursuit, and ultimately helped bring Smith in to custody. Thanks to tips from a mother and daughter pair and another citizen, JSO was able to find where Cherish’s remains were left- in an apparent attempt to hide them- in brackish water, under debris and a fallen tree near a church. That same officer used hisd K9 Gator to track to Cherish, then standing guard over her until evidence technicians arrived to meticulously document the scene.  It wasn’t until a few months later that another citizen tip led investigators to a stroller, store purchases, and Cherish’s sandals- all of which had been missing since her disappearance.

The autopsy showed Cherish struggled, according to the Medical Examiner. They were able to recover DNA left on her remains, despite the environment where she was left- and a DNA expert with the FDLE confirmed several of the samples belonged to Smith.

More former and current JSO employees then testified to getting information from a confidential informant about conversations Smith was having through an air vent, with another inmate in an adjacent isolation cell, purportedly talking about the case. The recording devices that investigators put in those vents captured some conversations, including the two talking about young teens they saw on a tour, with Smith saying that’s his “target”, and making comments about Cherish.

The defense didn’t call any witnesses, and Smith himself declined to testify in his own defense. They were very limited in their cross examination, and also waived their right to present a closing argument.

The penalty phase will begin on Tuesday. Because of Florida’s relatively new death penalty sentencing law, the jury must be unanimous in order to impose the death penalty for Smith.

Woman pleads guilty to 1998 abduction of newborn from Jacksonville hospital 

The woman arrested for the 1998 abduction of baby Kamiyah Mobley from a Jacksonville hospital has pleaded guilty. 

Gloria Williams was scheduled to begin trial this week, but during a disposition hearing she withdrew her original not guilty plea and changed it to guilty. 

Prosecutors say Williams pretended to be a hospital worker and took Kamiyah Mobley from University Hospital, raising her in South Carolina.

A judge will sentence Williams in early May.  She faces 0-22 years in prison.  

After the sinking of El Faro, Coast Guard continues to find ships in substandard condition

The Coast Guard continues to find ships sailing in substandard conditions, as part of its concentrated inspection effort in the aftermath of the sinking of Jacksonville cargo ship El Faro.

33 people died when El Faro sank in Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015. The tragedy prompted two federal investigations, that have now resulted in dozens of recommendations on how to improve safety at sea.

GALLERY: Tributes to the crew of El Faro

Coast Guard Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy Rear Admiral John Nadeau- who’s leading the Coast Guard’s efforts following a Marine Board of Investigation probe and directives from the Commandant- testified in front of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation today, along with NTSB Board Member Earl Weener. It’s one of the first times the sinking has come in front of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and Representatives made it clear they expect follow-up and results. 

“This was totally preventable,” says Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), who’s the ranking member on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, but was sitting in on the Subcommittee hearing. 

Today’s questioning largely focused on the Alternate Compliance Program. This is a special inspection program used by some commercial vessels that allows Alternate Class Societies, like the American Bureau of Shipping, to perform surveys and related work on behalf of the Coast Guard. The intention is to eliminate redundancies because of overlap between Coast Guard and ACS surveys, while also maximizing resources. 

The Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation’s probe of the El Faro sinking found many problems with ACP’s current application though, including that issues on ships were not being caught, some ACS surveyors were working without a substantial amount of ship-specific training, the Coast Guard was lacking oversight, and communication between involved parties was not always to the level it needed to be, among other things. 

“There are companies who do a good job, and there are other companies- if you pay them- they will certify your rust bucket as seaworthy. Now, that’s just not right,” DeFazio says. 

FULL COVERAGE:The sinking of El Faro

Concentrated Coast Guard inspections of high-risk ACP vessels started during the MBI investigation, and led to some vessels- including El Faro’s sister ship El Yunque- being scrapped because of substandard conditions. Nadeau says they’ve continued concentrated inspections, and they’ve continued finding problems. 

"To determine if these issues revealed in the El Faro investigation are pervasive across the fleet, I directed a team of senior marine inspectors to closely examine more ships currently enrolled in the Alternate Compliance Program, or ACP. We have found additional evidence of breakdowns in the safety framework, and our findings confirm concerns raised in the investigation about the material condition of several other US-flagged vessels,” Nadeau says. 

Nadeau says they’re committed to making changes, but DeFazio questioned if he has the resources he needs. 

“There’s real questions about the Coast Guard- whether their budget is adequate to carry out this very important function. I think it’s not. I think we’ve spread them too thin, and they are relying far too much on Classification Societies without any substantial oversight,” he says. 

Nadeau says they could always do more with more resources, but the central issue is training. He says they need to get the right information on board so they can put the right policies and procedures in place, and that requires a small group of highly trained marine inspectors focused on this issue. 

“The Coast Guard must- and will- restore the safety framework with robust and thorough oversight and accountability,” he says. 

Subcommittee Ranking Member Representative John Garamendi (D-CA) questioned how we got here, noting that there were changes- and some recommendations that weren’t acted on- in the aftermath of the sinking of the Marine Electric decades ago. 

“Bottom line is, why didn’t we get it right in the last 35 years,” Garamendi asked. 

Nadeau believes that, over time, they’ve been pushed to rely more and more on ACSs to do more work. 

“Along the way, I think we’ve lost a little bit of our focus, and we’re doubling down now to get that back,” Nadeau says. 

GALLERY: El Faro’s wreckage

Both the MBI and the NTSB conducted investigations following the sinking. The MBI came out with recommendations, and the Commandant has since issued his directives- ordering changes within what the Coast Guard can control and planning for how to change areas that require a partnership with other players in the maritime industry and government branches. The NTSB issued dozens of recommendations- which will be formalized in a report out in the next couple of weeks- and will lobby various parties to try to achieve their desired changes. The Subcommittee asked for more information to track the progress and status of the recommendations from both reports, as well as details on the ongoing inspections the Coast Guard is conducting. 

Subcommittee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) cautioned that lawmakers have to make sure they’re finding fault and putting responsibilities on the appropriate parties. He noted that both bodies found fault with El Faro’s Captain, and his decision to sail toward Hurricane Joaquin. 

“It looks like this was poor decision making that exacerbated physical problems with the ship,” Hunter says. 

Nadeau says training, certification, and related areas were all examined, and both investigations found room for improvement. They continued to expand the scope of the investigation as they uncovered information that warranted it. 

“This tragedy shined a spotlight on failures in the safety framework,” Nadeau says. 

IN DEPTH: El Faro’s black box captures final moments ahead of the sinking

He says there is room for improvement across the board- from the Coast Guard to Alternate Class Societies to the ship owners- but they’re ready and able to tackle the work. 

“At the end of the day, this is about the lives of the men and women who go to sea in support of the nation’s economic prosperity, in support of our military readiness, and in support of our national security,” he says. 

Nadeau says they’re dedicated to honoring those mariners, through achieving real and lasting change.

Crime Alert: Multiple St. Johns County vehicle break-ins over the past week 

St. Johns County residents are encouraged to lock their vehicles and keep valuables with them following multiple automobile burglary reports. 

The first happened on January 23rd at the YMCA on Landrum Lane in Ponte Vedra Beach.  A woman reported that her car had been burglarized.  The passenger’s side front window was smashed out and her purse had been taken.  There were no witnesses to the burglary and the facility has no cameras. 

On Saturday, a property owner in Nocatee Park had her purse stolen from her locked vehicle.  The window had been smashed.  An incident report says there were two other vehicle burglaries within the same parking lot with the same general details.  In each of the Nocatee Park cases, the victims said their vehicles were locked. 

A separate burglary happened on Saturday evening at Palencia Elementary School.  A woman’s pocketbook had been stolen.  The rear passenger window had been shattered. 

And on Sunday, Deputies responded to the public beach parking lot across from Fire Station 9 on S. Ponte Vedra Blvd, where a woman had her purse stolen as she was at the beach.  The driver’s side window had been smashed. 

“Lock your purse in the trunk, or take it with you”, said SJSO Media Relations Officer Kevin Kelshaw.  

St. Johns County Deputies do not have a description of a suspect or suspects at this point.  They have not determined if any of these burglaries may be connected to the same individual or individuals. 

Former Rep. Corrine Brown begins her five year prison sentence

Former Northeast Florida Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown has surrendered to start her five year prison sentence.

Brown was found guilty last year of 18 of 22 federal fraud-related charges, and she was denied her efforts to stay out of prison on bond while appealing those convictions and sentence. She turned herself in just ahead of a noon deadline today at Federal Corrections Institution Coleman’s minimum security satellite camp in Sumterville. While we first received confirmation of her surrender from a bishop who was with Brown and spoke after to our partner Action News Jax, WOKV has since confirmed with the Bureau of Prisons as well. A federal judge agreed to honor Brown’s request to recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that she serve her time in a facility close to Northeast Florida.

The Bureau of Prisons website says FCI Coleman’s satellite camp has 391 inmates. It’s part of a larger complex, which includes two high security penitentiaries and a low security federal correctional institution, in addition to the medium security correctional institution that’s adjacent to the satellite camp. 

The Admissions and Orientation Handbook says there are five counts on weekdays at the satellite camp, during which inmates are required to be in their room, and inmates and their property can be searched for contraband at any time. For visitation, inmates can have up to 30 people on their approved list- 20 family members and 10 friends and associates. Visitors are subject to a dress code and other requirements. Telephone calls by the inmate are subject to monitoring and recording, except for legal calls. Mail is allowed, and the facility is part of an electronic mail pilot as well, but inmates must apply for access to that.

There are television rooms, and personal radios are allowed, but must be played with headphones and at a volume that doesn’t disturb others. There are also table games in the activities/recreation room, including cards, checkers, dominoes, billiards, and shuffleboard. “Quiet time”- which also includes lights going out- begins at 10:30PM, and the Handbook says excessive noise after that is not tolerated. Inmates can apply to be a part of the “Hobby Craft Program”, with any completed crafts being mailed out of the institution. There are also leagues for sports at varying competitive levels, including basketball, soccer, softball, and volleyball.

The facility includes areas for worship services, prayer, study, and a religious library. There are full-time Chaplains available, and both personal counseling and religious services take place.

Every inmate there is assigned a job in the prison complex once they complete orientation and are medically cleared. Inmates can establish a savings account, but money can’t be withdrawn from that while the inmate is in prison, except for in emergencies. “Performance pay” and “meritorius good time” are available for inmates who have exceptional work performance, according to the Handbook.

Inmates are issued green shirts and pants to wear at most times. Basic hygiene items are issued by the facility, and more can be purchased at the commissary. Inmates can spend up to $275 per month at the Commissary, if they have the funds available in their inmate account. Food is served cafeteria style, and inmates are encouraged to complete their meal within twenty minutes, because of space and time limitations.

FULL COVERAGE: The case against former Congresswoman Corrine Brown

Brown, her former Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons, and the President of the sham charity they funneled money through Carla Wiley, were all involved in scheme that solicited hundreds of thousand of dollars from donors who believed they were giving to education, scholarship, and similar purposes- but instead, the money was used for personal expenses and lavish events. Brown was also found guilty of over-reporting charitable donations and under-reporting income on tax and financial disclosure forms. She continues to say she’s innocent, claiming she mismanaged her office and finances.

Brown’s ongoing appeal is based largely on the dismissal of a juror during deliberations. That juror said at the outset of deliberations that the “Holy Spirit” told him Brown was not guilty. The judge ultimately ruled that while praying for guidance is within the right of a juror, receiving instruction from an outside force was not. The judge further said that while it appeared the juror was trying to participate in deliberations, the fact that he made this statement in the beginning showed he was not following court instruction to withhold final judgement until full deliberations took place.

Simmons has already surrendered for his four year prison sentence that is being served in Maryland. Wiley also surrendered Monday, but she is serving her one year nine month sentence at Federal Prison Camp Alderson in West Virginia, which is minimum security. Both of them pleaded guilty ahead of Brown’s trial and cooperated with the government’s case, including testifying against Brown.

Our partner Action News Jax reports Brown spent the beginning of Sunday at Bethel Baptist Church, where she is a member. The pastor reportedly held a prayer for Brown, and church members say they’re praying for her as well.

WOKV will have continuing coverage through Monday. Action News Jax is in Sumterville, and you can get updates on CBS 47 and Fox 30 throughout the day. 

Comment on our Facebook post with your reaction to her prison sentence:

Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette not injured in crash approaching Dames Point Bridge

Five days before the Jaguars play in the AFC Championship Game, running back Leonard Fournette has been involved in a crash. 

It happened on the I-295 East Beltway approaching the Dames Point Bridge today.  

Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Dylan Bryan tells WOKV News that Fournette was not at-fault in the three-vehicle, chain reaction crash.  The driver who caused the collision will be cited for careless driving.  

A spokesman for the Jaguars says Fournette’s car was rear-ended and he was not injured. 

The Florida Highway Patrol thanked Fournette for thanking their trooper for his service and taking a photo with a boy who was involved in the crash.

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