Daytona residents concerned about safety at city properties due to employee cuts in Leisure Services Department
BY JAMES HARPER
Gun violence reared its ugly head again in Daytona Beach on Jan. 31 with its sights potentially aimed at up to 200 children, including a group of cheerleaders in the Midtown Cultural and Educational Center and its parking lot.
Luckily for the cheerleaders and supporters of the Daytona Beach Leisure Services basketball team, cheerleading coach Fallon Davis was able to talk a gunman out of continuing to fire shots. Davis’ action made her a hero in the sights of many, including the Daytona Beach City Commission, which recognized her efforts at a meeting last week.
According to two police reports, two young Black male teens got into an argument inside the Midtown center and took their fight outside to the parking lot.
The brother of one of the teens appeared on the scene and produced a gun and fired six shots in the air, according to witnesses. Davis intervened at this time to stop the shooting. The two brothers left.
Hundreds of kids on site at night
Police later went to their home and arrested one brother on aggravated assault, battery with intent to kill.
One of the witnesses on the scene of the shooting who wished not to be identified and volunteers at the center are upset that volunteers have had to put their lives in danger because the city does not have enough staff at the center.
During basketball season, there are hundreds of children at the Midtown Center at night, the Daytona Times has learned.
Davis and cheerleading coach Britney Parks are volunteers at the Midtown center, which has only one full-time staffer, Hillary Rowley.
Heroic action applauded
Davis, Parks and some of the cheerleaders who were at the Midtown center the night of the shooting were at the city commission meeting on Feb. 6 as Midtown Redevelopment Area Board Chairman Hemis Ivey acknowledged Davis’ heroic action and pleaded with commissioners to do more when it comes to the safety of the children participating in programs at the Midtown Center and at other city-owned properties.
“An incident that happened at Midtown Cultural Center (has) our kids are at risk when safety is not being provided over at the Midtown Center. We had a shooting,” said Ivey, who has a daughter participating in the city’s cheerleading program.
“If I had to give out an award today, I would give it out to Coach Fallon for stepping in and asking the shooter not to shoot them. That took courage,” Ivey said during the city commission meeting as the audience applauded Fallon.
“We ask the community to come together and step in. We had a shooting at Derbyshire Park and now at Midtown. We need cameras at our community centers,” Ivey continued.
“Fallon was able to identify the men and young men. Had she not been brave enough, we would still have those young men on the street. It is very important we protect our young kids. This is our future.’’
The Daytona Times also has learned that there are two surveillance cameras at the Midtown center as well as two at the John H. Dickerson Center.
City commissioners voted last March to eliminate four positions in the Leisure Services Department, including two office specialist positions and recreation leaders.
The loss of these staffers has led to the department eliminating the track and field, boxing and adult flag football programs.
The elimination of these staff positions also means fewer city employees to help maintain order at the Midtown center as well at the John H. Dickerson Center and the soon-to-open Yvonne Scarlett-Golden Cultural and Educational Center.
In an article published in the Daytona Times last March, Leisure Service Director Percy Williamson said that because of the vote by the commission to eliminate the four positions in his department, he has had to reorganize the department and shift his staff around.
Today, it is still unclear what effect the eliminated positions will have on the opening of the Yvonne Scarlett-Golden center, which is currently not budgeted for staff.
More dependent on volunteers
The Daytona Times also has learned the positions of Fred Morrell and Wilma Hawkins, who retired last year with the Leisure Services Department, will not be replaced. That also goes for the job of Hillary Rowley, who works at the Midtown Center and will be retiring later this year.
Because of budget decisions made by City Manager Jim Chisholm and approved by the commission, the community centers are more dependent on volunteers.
Safety at the Midtown center and Yvonne Scarlett-Golden center, which is opening next month, concerns Commissioner Patrick Henry who had to deal with a shooting that took place in his zone at Derbyshire Park last September.
“I was sitting at a meeting with Chief (Mike Chitwood) the night the shooting happened (at the Midtown Center). Safety is one of my main concerns. When we had the issue at Derbyshire, Chief just went in and parked the (mobile) command unit there for a few weeks every day,” Henry said.
Commissioner tries to get answers
The commissioner said he left the meeting with Chitwood and went straight to the Midtown center.
He approached two officers on the scene and identified himself.
“I only asked two questions: ‘Did anybody get shot?’ Their answer was there was an altercation and a firearm was involved,” related Henry.
Henry said he then asked the officers if they had a shooter in custody to which they replied that there was an “ongoing investigation.’’
He added, “I go inside. I get the whole story. I know who the shooters are and I know what happened. I’m thinking I might know more than police know by just going in the building.”
According to a police report, 17-year-old Darius Rivera was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm after firing six rounds in the air in the parking lot of the Midtown Educational and Cultural Center. Rivera pointed a handgun at Eric Pasley, 18, who was involved in a fight with Rivera’s brother, the report added.
“Nobody is a bigger proponent of the police department than me. My concern was did anybody get shot. That disturbed me when they wouldn’t answer my questions,’’ Henry related.
Zone 6 Commissioner Paula Reed, on the other hand, commended Chitwood and his department on their immediate action.
“Coach Fallon is my first cousin. One of the smaller cheerleaders is her daughter. This hits double not only with my family but my community, my zone,” added Reed.