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Amid Children at Ralph Carter Park, a Brawl Escalates Into a Shooting and Arrest

| April 30, 2012

Ralph Carter Park on Rymfire Drive in Palm Coast has had its issues, but it's also a very popular park with children, teens and adults. (© FlaglerLive)

It’s a parent’s nightmare: children playing in a park, and out of nowhere, in the same park, a fight that goes out of control, guns drawn, shots fired randomly, recklessly enough to strike anyone in the vicinity. That’s precisely what happened at Ralph Carter Park Sunday evening, with one exception: none of the half dozen bullets or more fired from a .38-caliber gun struck anyone.

It is the latest incident–and the second that weekend–in Palm Coast’s most unsettled, and unsettling, park.

There were about 100 people at the expansive park Sunday evening, which has a basketball court, a rarely-empty playground for toddlers, and skateboard runs on one side, and vast football and soccer playing fields on the other. It’s also a favorite ground for walkers and runners. A 49-year-old man was one of the parents at the park with his son Sunday evening before sunset.

He described what many witnesses told police: a group of teenagers were playing football on one of the fields. At some point the group started arguing, and moved to the parking lot that rims the playing field. The commotion grew. Suddenly, the witness heard five to seven gunshots, and everyone scattered and ran. Two other witnesses told police that the disturbance had degraded into a physical fight before five to seven shots rang out from a weapon they described as a small, gray handgun.

Witnesses described three vehicles leaving the park. The first witness called 911 at 6:42 p.m. He gave the description of a silver Dodge heading out of the park, for Royal Palms Parkway. Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies very quickly zeroed in on the Dodge on Belle Terre Parkway, and pulled it over just south of Royal Palms Parkway, in the sough lanes, over the bridge. Deputies closed the parkway’s right lane as what looked like a dozen cop cars converged on the scene.

There were seven black men or boys in the car. They were ordered out. A .32-caliber gun was located on the rear floor board, behind the driver’s side, wrapped in a white t-shirt, right where Johnnie Thomas Jr., 18, had been sitting. Thomas, of 710 Hymon Circle in Bunnell, is no stranger to the booking office at the Flagler County jail. He’s been arrested three times this month: for trespassing and resisting arrest on April 2, for obstruction of justice and possessing a negligible amount of marijuana, and on Sunday, for discharging a firearm from a vehicle, shooting a deadly missile, discharging a firearm in public, and dealing in stolen property: the gun in question was reported stolen in Volusia County in 1997.

Johnnie Thomas Jr.

The trajectory of the shooting spree reveals to what extent the shooting was rapid and random: a deputy recovered six .32 caliber shell casings at the park. Three of them were recovered near the middle of the main parking area, which is sandwiched between the toddler playing area and one of the big playing fields, and about 80 to 100 feet from where the original witness and his son had been playing. Another shell casing was located about 40 feet from the entrance to the park, on Rymfire Drive. Yet another shell casing was located at the entrance itself. And a sixth shell casing was located in the middle of Rymfire Drive, suggesting that the shooter fired the gun as the car was driving out.

One of the occupants of the car who spoke to cops said that he say Thomas shoot the gun three times while in the park, according to a police report, then heard three more shots while the car was driving off. He said the people Thomas was allegedly fighting with were in a car in front of the one he was riding in: if the shots were fired on Rymfire Drive itself, they were a potential threat to traffic on the road. If they’d been fired in the park, they were a potential threat to any of the children and adults playing there.

There were two bullet marks on top of the roof of the Dodge Stratus that had been pulled over on Belle Terre Parkway. One bullet had ricocheted off the top of the roof, another appeared to have gone slightly into the roof. “If the path of the bullet would have continued,” the police report states, “it looks as if it would have struck and seriously injured one of the occupants in the vehicle.”

As the vehicle was being searched on Belle Terre, cops with blue latex gloves went through it thoroughly, its doors and trunk open, as drivers passing the scene gaped and wondered what had happened.

“From looking at the scene,” a police report on the incident states, “it appears that the shooter had no regards for anybody or anyone’s safety that was at the park. From witness statements there were approximately 100 people in the park in total. The way that shell casings were located, it appears that the shooter was recklessly shooting the firearm in a manner that he had no control over it and had no care for where the bullet came to a rest. The park is located next to Rymfire Elementary school,” though the school was closed Sunday evening.

Thomas, who’s being held on $65,000 bond, refused a gunshot residue test.

That wasn’t the only disturbing incident at Ralph carter Park over the weekend.

Chad Davis

Saturday evening around 5, an 11-year-old boy who lives near the park, on Red Clover Lane, was at the park, playing at the basketball court. A 20-year-old man, Chad Davis, was playing at the opposite hoop on the court. The boy told police that Davis left, then returned, and when some of the boys on the court asked him if he’d forgotten something, he didn’t reply. He sat there, watching the boys play.

Then, as the 11 year old was tying his show, according to a police report, Davis approached him, grabbed him from behind, picked him up, and started walking out of the park toward Rymfire Drive. The boy struggled, yelled at Davis to put him down. Several of the juveniles who’d been playing at the hoop approached him , at which point Davis placed the boy on top of the marbled Ralph carter Park sign at the entrance of the park, and walked across the park, where he lit a cigarette and continued to watch the children. The children resumed their play. Whhen Davis returned to the court, the boy left and went to a friend’s house.

When the boy got home sometime between 7:30 and 8 p.m. and told a relative about the incident, cops were called in and told that the family did not know Davis and had never seen him before, according to the police report. They gave a description of the Ohio State sweatshirt he was wearing. When Davis was found, one witness was taken to the scene to identify him. The “advised he did not think Mr. Davis was the same person but stated he did not get a good look at Mr. Davis when the incident happened,” according to the police report. But Davis himself gave a description of the incident that matched the boy’s description.

After Davis was read his rights, he told cops that as he was playing basketball, he noticed the boy being picked on by the others. He carried the boy out when he told the others that they shouldn’t be picking on him, and told the boy the same thing: not to play with boys who pick on him.

For that, Davis got a charge of false imprisonment and jailed without bond on a battery charge, and on $500 bond for false imprisonment.

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52 Responses for “Amid Children at Ralph Carter Park, a Brawl Escalates Into a Shooting and Arrest”

  1. ric says:

    I’m not expecting anything less when it comes to that place.. I’ts a breeding ground for violence..

  2. GoodFella says:

    Wow, thank god that no one got killed by this jackass! They need to lock him up and throw away the key, how many times will he be arrested and let go? What about the other boys in the car, are charges pending against them? Good job by the FCSO for finding the car and arresting this man before he got away! Where is his mother and father?

  3. Robert Lewis says:

    How many times have these low lives been arrested previously? Why aren’t they behind bars where they belong? If they can not live like civilized humans then they should be incarcerated.

    Thomas was arrested 3 times in April. Seems like just a catch and release type deal to me.

    If the Sheriff was not too busy playing golf, wining and dining for free at the Hammock and focused more on the P and R section, maybe Palm Coast will be a better community. But of course at community meetings Sheriff Fleming mocks and makes jokes of the P and R section calling them “bad sections”. I live in the R section and I do not want to live in fear.

    When the heck will he do something? I am tired as hell and not going to take it anymore!

    • dontbesoparanoid says:

      First you need to understand the difference between the court system and law enforcement. Take these two for instance, they were arrested by FCSO. FCSO has done their job. Now it’s up to the court system to do theirs. A little education on how the system works would serve you well prior to posting. Sheriff does not play golf or wine and dine for free. Did we read the same articles??

    • lb says:

      you dnt need to worry bout what thomas doing you do you and let him do him

  4. some guy says:

    Im with goodfella why do we not see the oyhers also under arrest?? This thug was already arrested 3 time this month and he is out on our streets???? I know bring on the “he is just a kid” “you dont know him hes such a good kid an friend” hes a thug nothing more nothing less lock him up for a long long time.

  5. Biker says:

    The park has had many problems since opening. Just ask the people that live around the park.

  6. Outsider says:

    Palm Coast has had many problems recently; that’s why I moved.

    • Robert says:

      The problems start with enforcement and the mindset of law enforcement in Palm Coast! Why do 3 to 4 cars show up at at simple traffic stop, yet you never see them in the neighborhoods on preventive patrol! This park has had problems since the opening, how about a detail assigned on an intermittent basis, Target problem areas and lighten up on the traffic patrols! The R and P sections have some issues that need to be addressed by the Sheriff. It is an election year, what do the other candidates have on their platforms to help the homeowners who invested in the community and cannot move due to the economy!

      • Dontbesoparanoid says:

        Why not assign a deputy to tail every kid in town? That’s the only way to curtail some of the behavior we’ve seen. I see deputies rolling through that park all the time. How about blaming this thug for his own actions for which members of the Sheriff’s office responding to a shots fired call stopped his vehicle and confronted this person with a gun (who could just as easily have shot at them) and took him down.

  7. B. Claire says:

    Yup…great idea… “our Right to have” at least 1 or 2 guns…

    in every home
    on each person
    in each vehicle

    The FBI estimates that there are over 200 million privately-owned firearms in the US. Imagine the total including stolen, bought out of car trunks etc. etc. Apparently about 300,000,000.

    How’s that working for what is supposed to be a ‘civilized, advanced’ society?

    What a mess…and getting worse.

    • Linda H. says:

      What do you want to bet this gun was not registered?

      We need a new Sheriff, folks. If we don’t do something soon, these thugs are going to start killing innocent people. A few punks should not be allowed to terrorize entire communities. These guys have no respect for any living thing and they don’t belong in a community. They are every bit as dangerous as the Bloods and the Crips.

      Sheriff Fleming: Why was this guy arrested so many times recently and turned loose?

      Parents: Keep your kids out of this park until this is under control.

      • jespo says:

        Um…you can’t register a stolen gun….Fl Law states you don’t register each gun you own to your carry license…Sheriff Fleming upholds the law, he does not make the law…

      • dontbesoparanoid says:

        Linda H, you say this guy was arrested so many times and turned loose. Well to me that means the Sheriff is doing his end of the job. Since you don’t know, a Sheriff does not sentence people to jail time. A judge does. You’re blaming a Sheriff for something the Courts decide.

        • Linda H. says:

          dontbesoparanoid: I understand this. I’d like the Sheriff to tell me what is happening on his end. This is a question, not an accusation.

          He’s in charge. If the system is not working, it is up to the man in charge to tell us that.

          • Dontbesoparanoid says:

            Linda H.

            You’re reading what is happening on his end. Arrests are made. A Sheriff is not in charge of “the system”. He is not in charge of the State Attorney’s office which decides to pursue a charge or the courts which doles out the punishment.

            • Linda H. says:

              Ask the people at the library how well the Sheriff took care of them. They were forced to set up their own team of volunteers to police a county government building.

              Maybe the deputies are over on Celico Way? I see them there quite frequently.

    • C. Blair says:

      There are SALES going on right now in a couple of Palm Coast Gun Shops. You might just find a nice little Pink 38 for you purse.

    • jane says:

      it’s not about the guns. many people are responsible gun owners. this jackass was not – he had a gun that had been stolen and used recklessly. he could have used any weapon. i understand that florida has a problem with criminals armed with samurai swords and other tools that can be used as a weapon.

      there had been some past study that showed crime rates decreased when law-abiding citizens were armed.

      • elaygee says:

        There is NO study that shows that more guns in the general public lowers gun crime.
        There ARE studies that show that more guns in the general public lead to MORE gun violence because the criminals steal their guns from citizens.
        If they can’t buy them, they steal them.

        • Anonymous says:

          More Guns Less Crime
          understanding crime and Gun control laws.
          Read it. A wonderful study of guns and crime. One of many.

  8. Boo says:

    SO, where is the infamous “Reverend AL Sharpton”? Is he gonna come out of his hole and make a public comment on this story? Ahhh, I didn’t think so. Where are all the people that were marching out on Belle Terre a few weeks ago holding signs and demonstrating? Are they going to come out and make a public “outcry” about society? Ahhh, I didn’t think so. Im sure this story is just about a really nice kid that was just misunderstood. And people shouldnt stereotype? Give me a break.

  9. R_sec_resident says:

    This park has helped ruin this neighborhood. I’m ready to pack it up.

  10. Outsider says:

    An armed populace is the best deterrent to a tyrannical government. I never thought we’d ever actually need them to counter an out of control government, until now.

  11. Dudley Doright says:

    The little thug needs to be put away for a long, long time! Of course, our wonderful legal system will find away to cut him loose again. Hate to say it but, you” live by the sword, you die by the sword”! Maybethis thug will be taken out before he kills somebody!

  12. Jojo says:


  13. cory says:

    I hope they all get sent away. If you can’t fit them in this jail,send them to reford.Do SOMETHING to them. Or these thugs will kill somebody. This is why there is a law called STAND YOUR GROUND. I will do all I can to defend my family,you can bet on that. Hey Claire,think about this. Bad guys WILL get guns and thats a danger. Civilized people need guns to protect themselvs from the bad guys. WE have a right to bear arms. For if only the government had arms,we would not be a free nation. Do not give up that right,for if that one go’s whats next? The best thing to do is get rid of the known bad people,forever. Then there would be no need for guns. Guns do not kill. Bad people kill.

  14. FBInsider says:

    B. Claire, There are MILLIONS of legal gun owners in this country who enjoy firearms for hunting, target shooting or the peace of protection. I happen to legally carry every day. Guns are not the problem. If guns are the problem then I blame my pencil for my spelling errors and McDonald’s for making people fat. Take responsibility. Guns don’t kill people, irresponsible careless thugs kill people. McDonald’s will still be around if you love weight and pencils aren’t going anywhere either. The key is locking these dirtbags up the first time. This DIRTBAG has been arrested three times THIS MONTH. Instead of blaming the gun … blame the judge who let him out!

  15. palmcoaster says:

    Totally agree with Robert Lewis here. There was an incident prior to the last one and no police cruisers patrolling at all around that park? My daughter was jogging in the Linear Park while training for a race and a bunch of teens just loitering around while seating smoking and drinking on the picnic table located just about a 100 yards from the park entrance shouted some remarks to her while one started pursuing her and asking her name and other personal questions on an aggressive way, at the time that a friend couple approached jogging as well what moved the teen to take off. I learned later of this incident thru that couple friend of mine given their concern as my daughter no longer a teen but still looking that young due to his athletic practices. When I asked my daughter, she said didn’t tell me not to worry me. Though at a given moment the kids concerned her, she said would use her karate skills, if necessary.
    Actually that is not what we pay taxes for. We pay for law enforcement services. That table is/was located adjacent to the Florida Health Care medical parking area accessible to a patrol, if there would be one as it should. This city forks out 2,300.000 additional, to the 19 million plus, the BOCC pays the FCSO a year and we only deserve dummy unmanned patrol cars parked on the medians to safeguard us all? Does anyone ever see a sheriff cruiser patrolling around our parks like we used to see until 2005?

    • dontbesoparanoid says:

      Did she call the law enforcement services your paying for? Are they to sit at the park 24/7? Evidently, your daughter did not think it a big enough deal to call law enforcement.
      The pre 2005 bit is rather funny to me. Perhaps you don’t know that the Sheriff’s Office handles 100,000 calls for service annually these days. Wonder what it was pre 2005? Not saying it’s perfect now as no entity is but pre 05 I imagine there were deputies twittling their thumbs sitting in their cars hoping their foodstamps arrived or hoping their law enforcement certificate wouldn’t be pulled due to the lack of mandatory training at that time.

    • jespo says:

      They’re out there…there’s just not enouigh of them to deal with the influx of calls…I’d be happy to pay a nice tax increase to afford more deputies to deal with our community issues, but most won’t pay, or couldn’t afford to pay. Belle Terre Parkway does have pretty flowers though.

  16. Local Parent says:

    I say we all arm ourselves like George did. Then there is no reason to be in fear.

  17. ric says:

    If the city wants a new city hall why not build it within the park???

  18. palmcoaster says:

    @DBSParanoid. No one expects them to seat at the parks 24/7! But like in any other city just drive around every so many hours or times a day about the parks and any other publis places like the library where is well known those crooks concentrate. Just a matter of providing the serviceswe pay for.

  19. Geezer says:

    Here is a prime example of why white people are paranoid of black youth.
    Sad but true.

    • Anonymous says:

      Really, because i have walked by that park many times and have just seen kids playing as they should be aloowed to do. I think its really ignorant for you to say that “here is a prime example of why white people are paranoid of black youth” Bad and misguided kids come in all colors buddy.

  20. "My Daily Rant" says:

    In order to help stop crime police must be seen patroling, not hiding in bushes to write traffic violations.People of Palm Coast we must vote out the present goverment and replace with new people or things will never change.This includes a new sheriff, but not one we already had.I have been in Palm Coast for 34 years and have seen a once beautiful community turn bad real quick.Please get out to vote and replace these useless politicians with some who can bring our community back.One more thing the top picture of that scum could that to be obamas son.Have a good day

  21. Dudley Doright says:

    I must change my position on what I previously posted in regards to Thomas. I think that because he thinks that he is such a “bad ass” he should go to Afghanistan! I’m sure that the Taliban will be impressed with him.

    • Ben Dover says:

      Again Dudley , then you just train him to be a better killer , that is definately not the answer.

  22. ric says:

    Geezer. Here is another example why people are paranoid. I watch the news and read the paper and 90% of the crime is about the guys like this. They no respect for other peoples belongings and figure the world owes them a living..

  23. David says:

    These wanna be thugs think they are so bad. Since their was approximately 100 people in the park this guy should be charged with 100 counts of attempted murder. I agree with you Dudley Doright once these wannabe thugs turn 18 and they can’t find a job or go to college or trade school, and become a menace to society, turn them over to the military and let them make a man out of them.

    • Ben Dover says:

      @David ,Then you end up with a highly trained thug , look at the highway killer who trained the teenager to shoot and traveled the country shooting people randomly on our highways, they have no value for human life , no sense in training him how to be a better killer

  24. Initialjoe says:

    What is up with the guy stealing the child away. What a creepy park.

  25. Another Local Parent says:

    @LocalParent: George is a murderer and this is totally different from the Treyvon Martin case. Maybe the cops can patrol that park more, that was a very senseless act and I hope he really gets punished for this.

  26. Linda H. says:

    These two guys are not kids, both are adults which is of concern because adult males up to no good should not be allowed to hang out in public parks. That’s a recipe for disaster in any community.

    We need a better police presence here. If our public parks have become so dangerous that our children are not safe there, something needs to be done, even a full time security presence.

  27. Outsider says:

    You need to change the name of Palm Coast to “Calm Poast” to more accurately reflect what’s happening there.

  28. I live in the area and I heard the gun shots. The park needs to be closed or have the basketball and skateboard ramps removed from the park. The kids that live on my block all have their own basketball nets and play in the streets around the park because they have been intimidated by the grown men and other non locals playing on the fields. Another thought is maybe the City should hire a security guard for each local park . All our local parks are being taken over by these thugs and most of them don’t even live here. They should also lock the park at night. I hear alot of crazy stuff going on when I am getting home from work or being woken up by motorcycle drag racing on the fields.

  29. Local Parent says:

    @ Another local parent. I guess that is your opinion….Mine is he was tired of these thugs behaving like they all do. I consider that common sense not murder. I guess we should wait until they take over our neighborhoods, or shoot at our children while @ the park???? Get real!

  30. Sherry Epley says:

    OK. . . here’s the thing. . . think of the bigger picture. . . it is impossible to cut taxes without cutting the quantity and quality of ” public services”= police, fire protection, prisons and guards, etc. Little by little, we are shifting the acts of safety, prevention and protection from those who are highly trained and motivated to fewer of those who are cheaper on the payroll. . . even to the point of accepting vigilanties. Less regulation of who can own amd wield weapons= fewer “responsible” gun owners. With the decreased “government” as promoted by the Tea Party, and “less regulation”, as advocated by the “right wing” politicans, you are bound to have a more “out of control”, “less safe” culture.

    Take a look at the stories of violence reported here and on other news sources every day. . . there are common threads of a general breaking down of civilization. The changes needed begin with each of us. . . by VOTING, acting highly civilized, setting the example for the next generations, encourging enforcement of own own rules, supporting our best teachers and public workers, being active in the community, being good neighbors, watching out for one another, etc., etc.

    • lul says:

      Another one thinking there is two political parties in this country – wrong there is only one and it sucks and is the reason this country/state/county/city is the way it is. Wake up and vote them all out or we need Florida to take a stand and separate from US before it takes us all down.

      As far as the park – place needs to be shut down and bulldozed let’s could build a prison instead, seems more needed- dumb waste of money anyway if its not safe for the people paying for it.

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