Marion County, Florida, Sheriff Billy Woods on Friday gave a steady but emotional press conference following the untangling of a triple-homicide and the identification and apprehension of two of the three suspects, Fox News reported.
“My emotions, right now, are all over the place,” the sheriff said, mentioning both the upsetting nature of the case itself and his pride at the work his people, as well as cooperating agencies, did in unraveling the case.
The case itself is one to grab attention. The victims are identified as two 16-year-old white females and an unidentified 17-year-old male. The suspects are a 12-year-old black male, a 17-year-old black male and an unidentified 16-year-old male. The ages might strike some as appalling, but from there it gets even worse.
The suspects were involved in gang activity. But, so were the victims.
This was gang-related but not in the sense of a gang rivalry, Sheriff Woods explained. “Each and every one of them, in some shape, way, or form, was associated with a gang. Basically,” the sheriff said, looking around the room at those assembled, “simple terms — There is no honor among thieves.
“And at some point, these three individuals turned on the victims, and murdered them.”
Based on various reports, it appears that all six people involved were involved in a sort of burglary and robbery ring. The night of the murders they rode around in the car of one of the female victims, committing a litany of crimes, armed robbery among them.
The investigators generally referred to some of the crimes as a “lick,” according to the sheriff.
At one point on this final evening they were driving with one of the 16-year-old female victims smoking in the trunk, where she had chosen to ride. The group allegedly was heading to rob someone of more marijuana when the 17-year-old suspect, sitting in the back seat, shot two of the victims, who were seated in the front. The car then crashed, and the 17-year-old suspect exited the back and got into the front seat to take over driving.
It can be inferred that the 12-year-old later shot the third victim while she was in the trunk, where she eventually was found. He claims that the 17-year-old suspect forced him to do so.
Woods addressed those who, having heard all of the details of this case, would then lock their focus onto the gun. But he did so only after speaking compassionately of the suspects’ parents.
Woods told reporters he had to “look into the eyes” of the suspects’ mothers and inform them of their sons’ crimes.
“Really, [the suspects’ parents] don’t have a whole lot to say. If you’re a parent, put yourself in their shoes. Holy hell. Panic. I’m scared to death as a parent. Embarrassed. Ashamed. What do you think they’re gonna say?” the sheriff reportedly said.
“I am a father, and I cannot fathom what they were going through. These mothers and the mothers across this nation need all of your help because here’s what infuriates me,” he added.
“There are individuals out there viewing … who want to blame the one thing that has no ability or the capacity to commit the crime itself, and that’s the gun,” Woods said. “These individuals committed the crime.
“The fact is: society fails them. We do not hold our juveniles accountable. We minimize their actions.”
“A simple burglary, as some people would say — but I don’t consider anything ‘simple’ when it comes to a burglary — if the law allows me, I’ll plaster their face up … on my page, on media, I will hand it out if the law allows me because parents have the right to know who their kids are hanging out with and preventing this,” Woods said.
“Our school districts, not just here, across this state and across this nation need to stop minimizing the actions of their students. Hold them accountable. That’s where the failure is.”
Educational leadership has, in past years, made dramatic changes to how accountability is handled in schools. Not everyone is a fan.
The third suspect remains at large as of this writing.
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