Starting in the afternoon on Saturday, May 16, and into early Sunday, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said an estimated 3,000 people gathered across DeLand for a party or parties that spanned several locations.
Officials said that while the daytime was relatively uneventful, things started getting out of hand as day turned to night.
Volusia Sheriff’s Office deputies, working alongside DeLand PD, say they encountered several issues: A long gun pointed out of the passenger window of a passing vehicle, a loaded gun handed off from one convicted felon to another, agitated crowds of bystanders and bottles, jars and bar stools used against law enforcement as weapons or projectiles.
Officials said many in the crowd recorded video of their perspective of events.
Sheriff Mike Chit wood said, “Today, in a story headlined ‘Police, citizens clash after peaceful DeLand memorial block party,’ the West Volusia Beacon published quotes from some members of the crowd.”
Those quotes are as follows:
“This is what they do to black people,” one party participant said. “Have a block party Downtown and see what happens. … It’s not fair; it’s not fair.”
“Can we enjoy ourselves? No,” one woman said, adding, “We are human too — black lives matter. Every life matters.”
She asked, “Why do they try to take our humanity? Our pride? It’s not fair to us — we’re all human. We all bleed the same blood. When he us, he made y’all. [sic]”
Sheriff Mike Chitwood responded by releasing video footage of the events and defending the deputies and police officers who were surrounded by agitated crowds and hit by glass bottles and other objects.
Chitwood said, “Where else in Volusia County does a mob of thousands of people pack the streets? Where else are people throwing glass bottles at law enforcement and sucker-punching deputies? How are we supposed to turn a blind eye to someone pointing a gun at a crowd, or two convicted felons exchanging a loaded gun right in front of our face? Our response to last night’s events in DeLand was not about race. It’s about public safety, and I can’t believe the slant I’m reading today in The West Volusia Beacon.”
According to a press release, on May 16, around 10:30 p.m., a passenger in a vehicle pointed a rifle or shotgun out of an open window, in the direction of a deputy and pedestrians gathered at a gas station at Beresford and Spring Garden avenues. The vehicle continued northbound on Spring Garden at a high rate of speed. Deputies and police searched for the vehicle with negative results.
As crowds grew in multiple locations, impeding traffic flow and causing safety hazards, deputies and DeLand police officers began ordering vehicles out of certain areas. As crowds dissipated in one location, new problem areas would arise.
One of those areas was the 1200 block of South Delaware Avenue, where a crowd of about 1,500 pedestrians and vehicles formed on the street. Shortly after midnight, deputies were walking southbound on Delaware and observed two men (Alphonso Parker and Charles Turner) exchanging a firearm. A deputy approached while giving commands to drop the gun. At that time, Turner fled on foot. As the deputy ran after Turner, he tossed the gun and kept running. He was captured nearby and had to be escorted to the ground.
Chitwood said deputies recovered the firearm, a Ruger 9mm with 15 rounds (one round in the chamber), and the hammer was cocked. Several other deputies responded to help secure Turner, who was resisting. He was charged with two counts of possession of a weapon/ammunition by a convicted felon, tampering with evidence, inciting a riot, and resisting an officer without violence.
Turner, who was already out on bond on other charges, has a criminal history that includes 25 felony charges with 5 convictions and 28 misdemeanor charges with 13 convictions.
Parker was arrested on many of the same charges as Turner, with the exception of tampering with evidence. He was also charged with possession of a concealed firearm.
After securing Turner and Parker, two deputies were hit with a cup of alcohol. While the person who threw it was being taken into custody, one of the deputies was sucker-punched by another male subject who immediately fled the area. Another deputy and DeLand PD officer were hit with a barstool and mason jar by other members of the crowd who immediately fled. Glass bottles were also being thrown at patrol vehicles in the street while arrests were being made.
One deputy sustained a minor knee injury and a DeLand PD officer had a minor head injury when he was hit with the jar.
On Sunday afternoon, deputies learned that an Orlando man who attended the block party was admitted to a hospital in Altamonte Springs with a gunshot wound to the foot.
The victim, 34, told Altamonte Springs police he “was drinking with friends and pretty inebriated when someone started shooting,” according to an incident report. “I am unsure of the exact location of the shooting. I started running with everyone else when he felt pain in my foot.”
He said he left the area with friends and went back toward Orlando. He said when he got home he put peroxide on his foot, wrapped it up, and went to bed. When he awoke the next morning he went to AdventHealth Altamonte Springs Hospital for treatment.
The victim refused to cooperate with the investigation and didn’t want to press charges.
“The behavior that occurred here overnight was dangerous, senseless, unacceptable and an embarrassment to our community. None of it will deter law enforcement from coming back when we’re needed,” said Chitwood.