Authorities break up block party involving thousands in Volusia County, Sheriff’s Office says

Authorities break up block party involving thousands in Volusia County, Sheriff’s Office says
About 3,000 people gathered across DeLand for block parties spanning several locations Saturday and into Sunday. (Volusia County Sheriff's Office/Volusia County Sheriff's Office)

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — About 3,000 people gathered across DeLand for block parties spanning several locations Saturday and into Sunday, resulting in multiple arrests and deputies being injured after objects were thrown at them, according to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

Volusia County and DeLand police encountered several issues throughout the locations including “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,” according to a Volusia County Sheriff’s Office news release.

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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 news release said. The vehicle sped off northbound on Spring Garden Avenue and could not be located afterward.

As crowds grew throughout multiple locations, which impeded traffic flow and caused safety hazards, deputies and DeLand police officers began ordering vehicles out of certain areas. But “as crowds dissipated in one location, new problem areas would arise,” the news release stated.

About 3,000 people gathered across DeLand for block parties spanning several locations Saturday and into Sunday.
About 3,000 people gathered across DeLand for block parties spanning several locations Saturday and into Sunday. (Volusia County Sheriff's Office/Volusia County Sheriff's Office)

In the 1200 block of South Delaware Avenue, a crowd of 1,500 pedestrians and vehicles formed. Just after midnight, deputies were walking in the area and saw two men exchanging a firearm.

When a deputy approached and told them to drop the gun, one of the men, later identified as Charles Turner, threw the gun and ran away, according to deputies. He was apprehended shortly after, deputies said.

Deputies recovered the firearm, a Ruger 9mm with a round in the chamber and the hammer cocked. Turner was charged with two counts of possession of a weapon/ammunition by a felon, tampering with evidence, inciting a riot and resisting an officer without violence.

Turner was out on bond for other charges, deputies said.

The other man, Alphonso Parker, was also arrested and charged with the same offenses except tampering with evidence.

While the men were being arrested, two deputies were hit with a cup of alcohol. While the person who threw it was taken into custody, another man who sucker-punched one of the deputies fled the area.

Another deputy and officer were also hit with a bar stool and a Mason jar by other members of the crowd, who immediately fled, deputies said. Glass bottles were also being thrown at patrol vehicles in the street while arrests were being made.

A deputy suffered a minor knee injury and a police officer had a minor head injury when he was hit with the jar.

A 34-year-old man from Orlando who attended the block party was admitted to a hospital in Altamonte Springs with a gunshot wound to the foot.

The victim said he would not cooperate with an investigation, and that he didn’t want to pursue charges, according to deputies.

The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office called the behavior “dangerous, senseless, unacceptable and an embarrassment to our community.”

In a Facebook post, Sheriff Mike Chitwood shared body camera footage from the scene and defended the actions of the deputies following multiple media reports. See the footage and read his statement below:

DeLand block party 5/17/20

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. -Sheriff Chitwood *WARNING: Strong language and intense footage* Starting Saturday afternoon and into early Sunday, an estimated 3,000 people gathered across DeLand for a party or parties that spanned several locations. 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 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. Many in the crowd recorded video of their perspective of events. 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: “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.” *** Sheriff Mike Chitwood responded today 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. 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 giving commands to drop the gun, and Turner ran away. The deputy ran after him; Turner threw the gun and kept running, but he was taken to the ground nearby. Deputies recovered the firearm (Ruger 9mm, 15 rounds with one round in the chamber and the hammer 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 bar stool 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. 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.

Posted by Mike Chitwood on Sunday, May 17, 2020

“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 ... .” -Sheriff Chitwood