ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said Thursday a citizens safety task force will be reconstituted to take another look at rising gun violence, including the deadly shootings a day earlier in Pine Hills.
The mayor met with members of the African-American Council of Christian Clergy at The Experience Christian Center, along with other community stakeholders.
A woman, identified as 38-year-old Nathacha Augustin, was found shot to death in Pine Hills early Wednesday and hours later, four others were shot in the same area.
Orange County Sheriff John Mina said during a news conference that the suspect in the initial shooting, 19-year-old Keith Melvin Moses, returned to the scene of the homicide, where a Spectrum News 13 reporter, later identified as 24-year-old Dylan Lyons, and photographer, Jesse Walden, were covering the story.
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Deputies said the suspect approached the news vehicle and shot both men before walking up Harrington Street and entering a house, where he then shot a woman and her 9-year-old girl, identified as T’yonna Major.
“He was an acquaintance of the woman this morning but as far as we know, had no connection to reporters and no connection to the mother and a 9-year-old,” Mina said.
The sheriff said it is not known why the news crew was targeted or if the suspect was aware they were media members.
“I want to acknowledge what a horrible day this has been for our community and our media partners. I’ve worked closely with all of you and know many of you and know the very difficult job that you do and also the very important job that you do for our community and for law enforcement,” Mina said. “No one in our community — not a mother, not a 9-year-old, certainly not news professionals — should become the victim of gun violence in our community.”
Moses has a lengthy criminal history and has previously faced charges of aggravated battery, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and grand theft. All of those charges occurred when he was a juvenile, however.
Mina said during Thursday’s news conference that Moses was a known gang member, but this case was not gang-related. Deputies are trying to figure out how Moses got the gun used in the shootings.
“I will tell you that our gang unit, our tactical units, our community-oriented policing has worked very, very hard to combat some of the gang violence that we have in our community,” Mina said. “We have taken literally thousands of guns off the streets of Orange County. We’ve made hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of arrests of gang members with guns committing crimes in our community.”
Mina also reiterated that despite an uptick in criminal activity, crime is down in Orange County.
“If you look back before COVID to now, we have a decrease in crime,” Mina said. “And if you look back five years, we have a significant decrease in crime in Orange County. So there’s less crime happening in Orange County than happened five years ago despite the growth of Orange County.”
Community leaders said some of the things they are looking at are early intervention and mentorship, along with better data collection.
A meeting with The Pine Hills Association will take place next Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at The Experience Christian Center to talk about action items. There will also be a prayer vigil, and information will be coming shortly.
The community group also used the moment to urge the Florida Legislature not to pass a slate of firearm bills meant to loosen restrictions on firearms, when the Legislature convenes next month in Tallahassee.
“We do, however, want to ask that our state legislators there in Tallahassee, we asked them not to pass the gun laws as they stand now. That would make our communities less safe,” Bishop Derrick McRae with The Experience Christian Center said.
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