Florida Sheriff Denies Police's Actions While Controlling Crowd of Thousands at Party Were Racially Motivated

A Florida police force has defended its actions after officers were called to a mass gathering of thousands of people over the weekend.

The Volusia Sheriff's Office estimated that as many as 3,000 people were in attendance at the event on Saturday, May 16 which spread across several locations in DeLand.

Police said that while the event was uneventful during the day, it escalated into violence at night, resulting in at least two officers being injured and several people arrested.

According to The West Volusia Beacon, those at the party accused police of being heavy-handed and unfairly targeting African Americans while trying to break up the crowd.

The event was a memorial party held for Kenya Alexander, a DeLand resident who was murdered in 2008.

One of those in attendance at the party told the paper: "This is what they do to black people. Have a block party Downtown and see what happens...It's not fair; it's not fair."

In response, Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood released police video footage taken from a helicopter and officers' body cams showing them attempting to disperse the crowd and control traffic.

During the footage, police come across two suspects who are allegedly seen passing a gun between them.

The suspects were spotted after a passenger in a vehicle pointed a rifle or shotgun out of an open window in the direction of a deputy and a crowd of people at around 10:30 p.m. that night.

One suspect dressed in a white T-shirt, Charles Turner, attempts to run away while officers order him to he drop his weapon before he is eventually detained.

Turner was later 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.

The second suspect, Alphonso Parker, was charged with the same offense except for tampering with evidence. Parker faces an additional charge of possession of a concealed firearm.

A Ruger 9mm was later recovered from the scene after allegedly being thrown by Turner while he attempted to flee.

Later on in the clip, liquid is thrown over officers attending the scene by someone in the crowd who had gathered to watch the arrests. Officers then detain one male who they suspect to have thrown the drink while a crowd again gathers around.

While the suspect was being taken into custody, police said one of the deputies was punched by another male who immediately fled. Another deputy and an officer from the DeLand Police Department were hit with a bar stool and mason jar.

Glass bottles were also thrown at patrol vehicles while arrests were being made.
Towards the end of the clip, one officer can be heard saying how he had had a beer bottle hit him on the head and a rifle pointed at him during the night.

"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?" Sheriff Chitwood said in a statement.

"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," he added. "It's about public safety, and I can't believe the slant I'm reading today in The West Volusia Beacon."

In a series of tweets, Chitwood also dismissed suggestions that the incident on Saturday had anything to do with race.

"Most saw the video for what it is: A few outnumbered deputies & police trying their best to shut down a party that got too big & blocked too many streets. There was a gun pointed at a crowd; a shooting that thankfully didn't kill anyone. We had a responsibility to step in.

"Because the majority of the crowd were black & the deputies/police were white, we have to face the issues.

"I don't accept the accusations that we're racists, or that our actions Saturday were racially motivated. It's not true, and it's not a fair conclusion from the video.

"But given everything we know about our nation's history, I also know those feelings aren't just about Saturday night. That's why I'm asking everyone to hit pause and take a second to cool off, myself included.

Chitwood added: "Before you post a comment that dehumanizes a group of people based on their race, remember the context of how we got to this point in America, and the pain that others are still feeling.

"The way through stuff like this is together, not divided."

It was later revealed that one man who had attended the party had suffered a gunshot wound to the foot.

The 34-year-old victim told Altamonte Springs police he "was drinking with friends and pretty inebriated when someone started shooting," according to an incident report.

"He was unsure of the exact location of the shooting. He started running with everyone else when he felt pain in his foot. He left the area with friends and went back towards Orlando," police added.

"He got home and put peroxide on his foot, wrapped it up and went to bed. When he woke up he went to AdventHealth Altamonte Springs Hospital for treatment."

The victim is not cooperating with the investigation and does not want to pursue charges.

The Volusia Sheriff’s Office released footage showing thousands of people at the block party in DeLand. Volusia Sheriff’s Office