Sadly, George Morris said, he was not surprised when an armed brouhaha erupted during the dark morning hours Saturday in the derelict Glynn Place Market parking lot, leaving a woman critically wounded.
Glynn County police say the woman was caught in the crossfire, an innocent bystander among the large crowd that had gathered in the parking lot where a Winn-Dixie used to be, 5711 Altama Ave. The woman was taken to UF Health Jacksonville hospital, where she remains in critical condition, police said.
Police arrested one man later Saturday in connection with the shooting. They are actively seeking another and have issued arrest warrants for several additional suspects.
Morris is the owner of the Island Jerk Shack, a Jamaican restaurant that operates out of a strip building that fronts Altama Avenue adjacent to the abandoned Glynn Place Market.
Morris said he has watched increasingly large gatherings converge on the empty parking lot each weekend, engaging in a volatile mix of drinking and gambling. The rowdy crowd has affected business at Morris’ popular Jamaican restaurant and raised concerns among residents of the McGarvey Efficiencies apartment complex across the street.
“There’s a bunch of young men, and they’re drinking and gambling and carrying on,” Morris said. “They start that stuff, and there’s 25 to 30 cars there some nights. There’s a disaster waiting to happen. It was only a matter of time.”
Morris said he has called county police and county officials numerous times about the matter, as far back as three months ago.
On July 4, Morris said he called police after gunfire shattered a vehicle’s window in the parking lot.
According to a Glynn County police report on that incident, officers responded to a call of shots fired. “The caller claimed they heard multiple shots in the area of this address,” officer Z. Lewis wrote in the report. “I arrived on scene and found around 100 people gathering in the parking lot celebrating July 4.”
A similar scene unfolded around 2:30 a.m. this past Saturday, though the stakes escalated quickly. Police patrolling an apartment complex across the street heard gunfire coming from the Glynn Plaza Market parking lot.
“Upon arrival, a large crowd of people (was) leaving the area both on foot and in vehicles,” a statement from police said. Police then found the wounded woman in the driver’s seat of a Chevrolet Camaro, the report said.
A bullet pierced the Camaro’s driver’s side window.
A witness told police an argument broke out among a group of men, three standing behind the Camaro and two in front. “He said they were arguing and then they just started shooting at each other,” the report said.
Police found several empty shell casings in the area, the report said.
Police arrested Jeremiah Roashann Herrington, 26, at around 9 p.m. Saturday. He remained Tuesday in the Glynn County Detention Center, charged with aggravated assault.
Police are seeking the public’s assistance in locating Jamar Scott Herrington, who also is wanted for aggravated assault in connection with the shooting. Additionally, police have issued several warrants for other suspects.
Anyone with information is asked to call Glynn County Police Detective Rod Nohilly at 912-554-7816.
Soothing reggae music, a friendly staff and the tantalizing aroma of Jamaican dishes greeted visitors Tuesday at Morris’ Island Jerk Shack. The place is open until 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. With a full bar, it stays open as late as 2 a.m. on weekends, Morris said. But lately, Morris said he usually closes earlier because of the dubious goings-on next door.
Morris is concerned that folks nearby confuse the source of the problem due to his restaurant’s proximity to the empty parking lot.
“A lot of people across the street, they’re thinking the Jerk Shack is causing all the commotion,” he said. “That’s not us. And they’re all drinking and smoking and gambling over there. What’s it going to take?”
Interim Glynn County Police Chief Jay Wiggins said Tuesday that police will pay closer attention to the activities in the empty parking lot.
“We understand there is a problem,” Wiggins said. “And we’re going to address it.”