Late Sunday night Flagler County Sheriff’s a deputy were dispatched to Indian Trails Sports Complex, where there’d been complaints about illegal fireworks. Active Fireworks were visible to the deputy when he approached.
Two vehicles left the park as the patrol car entered the park. A third vehicle remained. The deputy encountered Amarilis Merino, a 17-year-old resident of a group home on Burgundy Place in Palm Coast, and Justin Brown, 19, of Lake Gray Blvd. in Jacksonville, in the car. Before long, both individuals were under arrest–not over any fireworks: Brown on drug charges, including a felony charge for hashish possession, and Merino on drug charges, an illegal gun possession charge, and grand theft: she is accused of stealing one of the two guns found (one on the passenger floorboard, one in the center console).
The smell of marijuana in the car gave a deputy probable cause to search the vehicle, a search Brown at first tried to stop. “There’s no probable cause,” Brown said as the deputy was ordering him out of the car.
“Yes there is,” the deputy–Dominic Quintieri–told him. “I’m telling you to step out of the car right now, ok?” Brown then, raising his hands in surrender, stepped out. “Any fast movements or anything like that, I’ll take as a threat, OK?” the deputy tells him. Brown stepped out without issues.
The deputy immediately located a glass pipe in the center console near the shifter, “as well as a clear container with an orange lid,” he reported. “Inside the container was a small amount of marijuana which I identified through my training and experience. Lastly located was a small clear cartridge with a thick brown oil liquid inside that through my training an experience is consistent with that of THC Oil. I then checked the center glove compartment, and located inside was a black handgun with a magazine inside containing ammo.” There was no round in the chamber.
The passenger door yielded pot, as did the area beneath the passenger seat. There was a DKNY purse on the floorboard–and another gun in the purse, plus another magazine with ammunition in it. The black Smith and Wesson M&P 9mm gun turned up as a stolen weapon, out of Clay County. Merino, who claimed the firearms were hers, would not say how she obtained them. Brown said he had no knowledge of the firearms. The vehicle was his mother’s.
Merino was previously committed to a group home, whose legal guardian was summoned to the sports complex and gave law enforcement permission to interrogate the girl.
According to a sheriff’s release, Brown’s criminal history started in 2017 in Flagler County for Violation of Probation, Domestic Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Domestic Battery, and Possession of Marijuana Under 20 Grams in Volusia County. Merino’s criminal history started in 2016 in Volusia County for Battery, an Out of County Warrant in Duval County and a previous arrest by the Cocoa Police Department in 2020 for Burglary and Petit Theft.
The Burgundy Place group home to which she had been committed is the same home from where Nicole Jackson, then 14, had been living when she was arrested last April for setting a series of fires in the B Section, then was involved in a firefight with Volusia County Sheriff’s deputies, in June. She was wounded in that firefight, when she was also in the company of a 12-year-old boy.
“The system has failed these two young criminals,” Sheriff Rick Staly said of Merino and Brown. “This girl’s criminal history started when she was only 13 and she’s had many chances to turn her life around but instead she is escalating her criminal behavior and now has two guns, one of which was stolen. Another great job by our deputies looking beyond the initial call.”
Just over a week ago a 17-year-old boy was arrested at the Indian Trails Sports Complex for illegal possession of a gun after a witness saw someone point the gun out of a car.