Police report New Year's incidents


Published: Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

Approximately 20 Gainesville Police officers found themselves downtown during the early-morning hours of the new year after reports of multiple fights and shots fired near a crowd early Tuesday.

Police received no reports of serious injuries, although five officers were assaulted and three had minor injuries, including one with bones broken in his foot, said spokesman Lt. Keith Kameg. Police made seven arrests and issued a sworn complaint for one person on charges ranging from battery on a law enforcement officer to improper exhibition of a firearm.

"You are talking about a three-block area, and these fights are breaking out with no reason, with no provocation, and we were responding to them as quickly as possible," said Kameg, who added that the incidents unfolded from midnight until about 4 a.m.

"I equate it to when you put a lot of people in a small area, somebody is going to be an idiot. You saw some atrocious, atrocious behavior by people," Kameg said.

The arrests started around midnight when a 17-year-old male Gainesville resident punched a man in the face in front of an officer in the 300 block of W. University Avenue, Kameg said.

At about 1:30 a.m., police arrested Julio Mendez Cirilo, 23, and Lluvia Holguin, 25, both of Gainesville, after officers reported Holguin grabbed a bouncer trying to remove Cirilo from Market Street Pub. Cirilo then hit the employee over the head with a glass beer bottle, Kameg said.

As downtown businesses were closing at 2 a.m., a fight broke at the Southwest Downtown Parking Garage off of SW 2nd Street. One man, Jontarius Hayes, 19, of Gainesville, was arrested after police saw him standing over another man, kicking him in the head and chest.

At about the same time, shots were heard coming from a parking lot on the north side of the garage, Kameg said.

Officers from the department's evening shift and midnight shift, as well as the agency's Party Patrol all responded to the incident, bringing the number of officers in the area to about 20, Kameg said. Police issued a sworn complaint on charges of improper exhibition of a firearm and discharging a firearm inside the city limits for a 29-year-old man who fired shots into the air.

Police also arrested Sheila Holley, 25, of Gainesville for charges including resisting arrest with violence and obstructing an arrest without violence, two counts of battery on a law enforcement officer and assault on an officer after officers alleged she interfered with the crime scene of the shooting, kicked one officer and grabbed another.

Another fight broke out in the 1200 block of SW 2nd Avenue, leading to the arrests of Brian Johnson, 27, of Gainesville, and Eddie Gray Jr., 25, of Alachua.

At about 4:30 a.m., police received a report of a robbery in the 200 block of W. University Avenue outside the Venue. A woman told police two other women jumped her, pulled her to the ground and beat her up before stealing items from her purse.

The law enforcement agency did not have as many officers assigned to the downtown area as in the past on New Year's Eve because a city-sponsored celebration had been canceled and officers weren't expecting a large crowd. Kameg said three to five officers were working overtime in downtown, along with the department's downtown detail, bringing the number of officers assigned to downtown to at least eight.

"We have a finite amount of resources. The policing of downtown is getting incredibly expensive and really nobody is stepping up to defer those expenses. We are doing everything we can, but when you have someone who wants to play the fool and shoot their guns in the air and cause a panic, that could happen anywhere," Kameg said.

Kameg blamed alcohol and the immaturity of some of the defendants for the series of incidents downtown. "We've got a lot of 18-, 19-year-olds, who act like 8-year-olds in the bar area," he said.

Lise Fisher can be reached at 352-374-5092 or fisherl@gvillesun.com.

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