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Florida St Patrick’s Day celebrations turn deadly as one killed and three wounded in three separate shootings

Florida St Patrick’s Day celebrations turn deadly as one killed and three wounded in three separate shootings

Police are searching for multiple suspects after one person was left dead and three were injured following three separate shootings that all took place within less than an hour in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, on St Patrick’s Day.

Authorities said in a news conference on Monday that three separate shootings took place on Sunday in the bar district of Jacksonville Beach, which hosts many nightlife venues, but that suspects were still at large.

Three people were injured during the violence, and one person is dead, Chief Gene Paul Smith from the Jacksonville Beach Police Department said during the conference.

Chief Smith said that earlier this week, officers started to receive information about a possible gathering of organised fights on the beach that were planned for Sunday.

Around 250-400 people in their late teens arrived at the area, with some engaging in fights, but they were dispersed by officers on scene.

Chief Smith said that the shootings started after the crowd dispersed.

The first shooting occurred at around 7.50pm, where two “suspect victims,” had shot at each other, and also hit an innocent bystander who was from out of town.

The shooting happened in the 400 block of the boardwalk just east of the Best Western Hotel. Police were already in the area when the shooting happened, so they were able to immediately attempt to apprehend the suspects and render medical aid.

Police said that before the shootings, a mass gathering took place on the beack for organised fights (City of Jacksonville Beach Police Department)
Police said that before the shootings, a mass gathering took place on the beack for organised fights (City of Jacksonville Beach Police Department)

The victim-suspects are wounded and are in serious condition in surgery, Chief Smith said, adding that two were transported to hospital, while a third person, who he sais was known as a gang member, self-reported to hospital.

The innocent bystander was hit three times by gunfire and is also said to be in serious condition.

A second incident occurred at around 8.13pm when a male ran by The Ritz bar parking lot, got out a pistol and fired a shot, leading to a foot chase.

There were no injuries and no one was hit by the gunfire. However, the shooter was able to allude the officers.

Not long after this, at 8.31pm, gunshots were heard coming from behind Sneakers Sports Grille bar. Witnesses said some kind of disturbance had started, leading to three suspects pulling out firearms.

Only one person is thought to have fired their weapon, but a 21-year-old male was killed, resulting in officers hunting three suspects.

Chief Smith said police believe the three shootings are unrelated due to the locations they happened in, but are still in the early stages of their investigations.

Police will be reviewing multiple video tapes, social media posts and information from tipsters, and are asking that anyone with further knowledge of Sunday evening’s events to contact authorities.

Police are searching for multiple suspects (NBC)
Police are searching for multiple suspects (NBC)

Mayor Christine Hoffman said the shootings were “extremely tragic and unfortunate” and praised local businesses and law enforcement who acted together while the area was filled with beachgoers and those celebrating St Patrick’s Day.

"There were several different incidents that were, at this time, seem to be potentially unrelated," she told local reporters. "So we want to know as much as we can find out."

Authorities put the area on a temporary lockdown on Sunday evening, asking people to shelter in place as police rushed to the scene of the active shooter incident, but lifted the order just before 11pm.

Authorities put the area in a temporary lockdown after the shooting (First Coast News)
Authorities put the area in a temporary lockdown after the shooting (First Coast News)

Crime scenes were secured, all civilians were escorted from the area and offciers were on the lookout for possibe suspects.

This was something that Chief Smith said was a “huge task” especially during “what was basically a holiday” as spring breakers and St Patrick’s Day celebrators were out in the bar district, as well as those who may have come from the Players Championship golf tournament happening near by.

Authorities found multiple shell casings from a pistols and a rifle; with two of these firearms being recovered from the scenes, one of them being a pistol from the second incident.

Chief Smith described one victim from the first shooting as a tall, thin Black male. A suspect from the second shooting was described as a tall thin Black male with a ski mask. In the third incident, the three people who displayed firearms are described as Black males, with the person who fired a shot reported as a thin, six-foot-tall Black male with a short beard.

All scenes have been cleared, but the investigation is ongoing.