APOPKA, Fla. - Eyewitness News rode along with police Wednesday night as they searched for members of an emerging gang that residents claim is trying to take over the streets of Apopka.
Police said the gang is made up of mostly teenagers and was linked to an attempted homicide earlier this week.
Officers said they were unaware of the recent gang activity until residents came to them after Monday’s shooting and told them about the so-called Swisher Gang.
When police tried to question some of the teenagers, parents complained that police were harassing their children.
Police said they won’t stop, however, until they’ve eradicated the new gang committing dangerous crimes.
“We’ve got social media out of control with these kids, and they’re taking pictures of themselves with bags of marijuana, throwing gang signs, holding guns,” said Apopka police Capt. Randy Fernandez. “They’re trying to get some street cred.”
Shamoule Brown, 19, who police said is part of the gang, is charged with shooting a man during an argument Monday.
An Apopka resident, who did not want to be identified, said the Swisher Gang is trying to take over the streets of Apopka.
“They started recruiting extra people and they are getting younger and younger,” she said. “It’s getting so bad to where you got them as young as 5 years old, 14, 15 years old.”
The teens allegedly beat people to add to their tough image.
The woman said her son has even been a target.
“Every time they pass by they pull their trigger finger like they’re going to shoot him,” she said.
One of the obstacles police are finding when they’re on the streets trying to identify potential gang members is their families.
“They keep coming, wanting to question them, saying they’re gang members. I keep telling them they’re not gang members,” said one mother, who also wasn’t identified.
The police chief showed the woman pictures of her stepson posted online associating him with the gang.
“When we tried to show that to the parents, in this particular case, the answer is, ‘Well they just took it off Facebook.’ That doesn’t stop the gang activity,” Fernandez said.
During the ride-along, the chief stopped another teenager, only to find out he was wanted for stealing a car earlier this week, and had a warrant in Brevard County for the same thing.
Police said they need the community’s help, especially parents, to get involved.