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.
First of all, Justin Brown is not a juvenile, He can and should be charged and tried as an adult.
Second of all, it sound like the Indian Trails complex where these multiple incidents have been taking place has become a drug den and public safety hazard. It should be patrolled regularly and at all and random hours.
The 19 year old is going to be handled as the legal age adult he is, the 17 year old looks like she’s going to face similar because of the stolen firearm & drugs, also her track record. The Jax dude, sounds like he’s been up & down the I-95 corridor from Cocoa (Brevard & Volusia) to Jacksonville (Duval, perhaps even as far north as Nassau county ?) at least. Edgwater/Oak Hill, FL is a high drug abuse area as well. I hate it when they use a park to conduct their drug activities. The fireworks complaint got them caught as the officer approached the vehicle. I’ll bet FCSO wasn’t really too concerned about the fireworks at that point in the park response.
…Has the Group Home been closed down yet?
Concerned mom says
There needs to be more surveillance and patrol in that area. Obviously it has proven to be a problem area. That group home needs tighter supervision as well.
Concerned Citizen says
The problem is our current judicial system.
Our judges set stupid bonds. I have never seen 2500 dollar bonds for felon in possession of a fire arm. Or even bonding on probation violation. Until coming here. Most jurisdictions have those set as non bondable offenses. And rightly so.
Then you have the State Attorney and DA’s who are eager to prosecute and close out a case so they negotiate silly deals for serious and violent charges. Low bonds and plea bargains should be for first time offenders. Who are remorseful and want to change things Not career felons who don’t give a damn.
Start sentencing accordingly. Then maybe the message might get out. Catch and release doesn’t work. Nor does a revolving door.
Land of no turn signals says says
Lock them all up.Rolling dirty.
Mary Fusco says
Sad, but anyone who has ever lived in a real “City” knows that these parks are all a magnet for garbage and they will be destroyed, including the splash park that cost millions.
The smell of Marijuana should not be cause for police to search a vehicle.
I used to go to school with the 17 year old back in my OKES and ITMS days. She was always nothing but trouble, and back in 2018 she was brought up A LOT when I got placed at unity house in Deltona. She was known as a troubled kid, a runaway and a girl who’s going down the wrong path.. seems like everyone was right.. so sad