VIDEO: Officers Accused Of Racism After They're Attacked At 3,000-Person Party
DeLand, FL – Attendees at a massive gathering held in violation of coronavirus lockdown restrictions claimed that the law enforcement officers they attacked with bottles and a bar stool had targeted the partygoers because they were black (video below).
One attendee at the 3,000-person gathering was shot in the foot by another partygoer during the mayhem, and a suspect also pointed rifle at police at one point, 9News reported.
A DeLand police officer was bashed in the head with a glass jar while he was assisting with an arrest, one Volusia County deputy was hit with a bar stool, and another Volusia County deputy suffered a leg injury, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal.
“Let’s call it what it is,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said during a joint press conference with DeLand Police Chief Jason Umberger on Monday. “It was an absolute s--t show that somebody could have been killed and law enforcement is being tarred as racist.”
“You just cannot hire a DJ and take over a street, neighborhood and drink, smoke weed and have gun play,” the sheriff declared.
Sheriff Chitwood said his department received calls from multiple Spring Hill residents about people brandishing guns at the gathering that began on Saturday afternoon and raged on into early Sunday morning, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
“There were rifles and guns brandished there,” Sheriff Chitwood noted. “Employees became fearful for their lives, hitting the panic button on the businesses as people were brandishing firearms.”
Flyers for the event branded it as a car show and block party, but National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) West Volusia Branch Vice President Sean King has since claimed the party was held in honor of someone who was fatally shot over six years ago.
King refused to provide the name of the person who was allegedly being honored, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
The party fliers made no mention of honoring a victim of gun violence.
Sheriff Chitwood said that the block parties happen frequently, even though they are not legal.
“The policing strategy from VCSO and DeLand was like détente,” the sheriff explained. “Basically, what we were saying was, we know what you are doing isn’t legal but if you don’t block a street or neighborhood, or bring attention to yourself, we are going to stay in the shadows.”
DeLand spokesperson Chris Graham said that there was not a permit issued for the party, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
“We do not permit private block parties,” Graham told the paper. “The event started outside of the city limits and then spilled over into the city as people from certain areas dispersed.”
In the past, law enforcement has generally turned a blind eye towards the illegal gatherings.
“It is my understanding that we allowed it to occur to not inflame the community,” Sheriff Chitwood added. “The community was supposed to meet us halfway, but no meeting halfway occurred on Saturday.”
When deputies arrived at the scene, at least one suspect pointed a rifle at them, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
Others brandished firearms at the crowd, prompting deputies to make an all-county request for backup.
Sheriff Chitwood said it was the first time such a desperate request has been make during the 14 years he has been serving in the Volusia County area.
The scene erupted into complete mayhem as partygoers attacked the officers with glass bottles and a bar stool.
“This is what they do to black people!” one attendee wailed, according to 9News. “It’s not fair!”
Police said that bodycam footage captured the moment when two known felons pulled guns and pointed them at each other, WOFL reported.
“Get back! He’s got a gun!” an officer yelled.
Another bodycam clip showed an officer as he tackled a fleeing suspect to the ground and struggled to take him into custody.
The suspect had tossed a loaded firearm during the foot chase, according to police.
Officers ran to his location as the angry crowd screamed at them.
At least seven suspects were arrested during the incident, The West Volusia Beacon reported.
Kevis Murphy, 25, was arrested for resisting arrest, carrying a concealed firearm, and two counts of battery on a law enforcement officer.
Alphonso Parker, 27, was charged with resisting arrest without violence, inciting a riot, possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and carrying a concealed weapon.
Charles Turner, 37, was arrested on charges of resisting arrest without violence, inciting a riot, tampering with evidence, possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Reginald Charles, 46, was charged with no insurance and unregistered motor vehicle.
Jennifer Balsley, 43, was arrested for two counts of drug possession.
Tony Cranican, 28, was charged for failing to have a motorcycle endorsement.
Samuel Zow, 35, was arrested for driving with a suspended license.
The gunman who pointed the rifle at the deputy has not been apprehended, WOFL reported.
The man who was shot in the foot was transported to the hospital, according to 9News.
Sheriff Chitwood released helicopter and bodycam footage of from the chaotic scene after The West Volusia Beacon published a story that painted the gathering as a “peaceful DeLand memorial block party.”
“This is what they do to black people,” one attendee told the paper. “Have a block party Downtown and see what happens…It’s not fair; it’s not fair.”
“Can we enjoy ourselves? No,” another partygoer complained. “We are human too — black lives matter. Every life matters.”
She accused police of trying to strip them of their humanity, The West Volusia Beacon reported.
“Why do they try to take our humanity? Our pride?” she lamented. “It’s not fair to us — we’re all human. We all bleed the same blood. When he made us, he made y’all.”
Sheriff Chitwood voiced his frustration about The West Volusia Beacon’s story on his Facebook page when he released the helicopter and bodycam footage.
“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,” the sheriff wrote.
At no point did the officers target any of the partygoers because of their race, Sheriff Chitwood said, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal.
“What you saw on Saturday had nothing to do with racism,” the frustrated sheriff reiterated. “What we saw was criminal activity, convicted felons with guns, people throwing bottles and jars at deputies and police.”
Sheriff Chitwood said the officers were left with few options as the situation rapidly spiraled out of control.
“We’re out there doing the best that we can to keep a situation as peaceful as we can and someone point a rifle at a law enforcement officer,” he said. “I mean, we’ve got to address that.”
The sheriff estimated that 95 percent of the partygoers were not causing any problems, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
“But you have five percent who were out there inciting a riot, carrying firearms, selling drugs and destroying the community’s quality of life,” he added.
Chief Umberger noted that the 3,000-person gathering was especially concerning due to the fact that the state’s COVID-19 restrictions remain in effect, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
“Not only was this a public safety issue, but it was a matter of public health,” he said. “No one should be getting together in large groups of 50 or more.”
Watch the incident unfold in the video below. Warning - Graphic Content and Obscene Language: