News release from the Sarasota Police Department:
The Sarasota Police Department presented two videos to the City Commission Monday night showing crowds of people gathered along the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Way business corridor, including one person walking through the crowd waving and shooting a handgun into the air.
Routinely, large crowds, with as many as 200-300 people, congregate in the street late at night creating a public safety concern, which was highlighted in the videos.
These videos, along with a history of substantial numbers of people gathering in the area, led to Chief Bernadette DiPino requesting that hours of operation for retail stores along the corridor be modified. The Sarasota Police Department believes people are attracted to the MLK corridor from surrounding communities because retail businesses stay open as late as 4 a.m. These large late night gatherings have become a serious public safety concern both for citizens and law enforcement.
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As a result, the City Commission directed staff to review hours of operation for business districts throughout the city, as well as the City of Bradenton and Manatee County, and compare those hours to business hours along the MLK corridor. The Commission also requested staff attempt to determine where the people are coming from. Once the requested information is obtained, staff will return to the City Commission for direction on how to proceed.
The Sarasota Police Department will meet with store owners and community members for their ideas, support and assistance toward resolving neighborhood and police department concerns.
On July 5, 2014, at approximately 1:30 a.m., officers monitoring cameras along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way near Dixie Avenue, observed two suspects known to them, Maurice Carnes and Jerral Bell, standing near the intersection.
During this time and as seen in the first video clip, officers observed Carnes, who was wearing a dark colored button up shirt, give a handgun to Bell, who was wearing a dark tank top. After receiving the handgun, Bell fired off several shots into the air among the crowd. Officers then observed Bell hand back the handgun to Carnes who walked east on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Way away from Bell.
As seen on video, Carnes walks between two marked Sarasota Police patrol vehicles, with the handgun in plain sight. Officers relayed information to responding units who subsequently took Carnes into custody after a brief foot pursuit. Officers then located and arrested Bell. No injuries were reported.
Carnes has been charged with felony possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, resisting an officer without violence and smuggling contraband into a detention facility. Bell has been charged with felony possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and firing a weapon in public or on residential property.
The second incident, also captured on camera, occurred two hours later in the area of Links Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Way at approximately 3:54 a.m. As seen on video, a large crowd gathers, shots are fired in close proximity to both Sarasota Police officers and citizens and the crowd disperses quickly. One person was wounded in this shooting incident, which is currently an active investigation.