POLK COUNTY, Fla. - Lakeland police said there is an escalating gang violence problem in Polk County.
Investigators said Tyler Knight, 16, shot Damarco Powell in the head S
aturday because he thought Powell was working with a rival gang in an effort to get Knight killed.
Police said the
Last summer there were a string of drive-by shootings in the city.
During the fall, Channel 9 was with police as they patrolled a football game between Lakeland and Kathleen high schools because some students are also involved in gangs.
Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens said his officers are doing everything they can, but the best solution is at home.
"The most important fight with gang violence is the families
, because the families know what's going on and the parents have got to get involved in their children's' lives," said Giddens.
Documents show Powell, Knight, and another boy involved reported to be in the Powell's death have been associated with several gangs, including Armed and Dangerous,
Soulja Boyz, Ratchet Boyz, and the Hood Boyz.
Powell's father told Channel 9's Tim Barber that his son was not involved in gangs.
Lakeland police estimate there are 50 gangs in town, but only a
handful are violent.
When Barber investigated central Florida's gang problem in November, he found records that show most gangs are involved in non-violent crimes such as burglaries and car break-ins, but sometimes violence erupts.
Knight is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Powell. Taqiy Lewis, 16, has been accused of giving police false information in the case, according to police.