POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Three “kids” were accused of first-degree murder for their alleged involvement in a January Winter haven murder case, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Jermaine Leonard Hawthorne,16, Mecheal Jean-Charles, 17, and Antonio Bernard Lewis Jr., 21, were all charged with first-degree murder, and several other crimes after deputies said they attempted to kill several members of a rival gang.
Sheriff Judd said it all started when the three boys pulled up to a Winter Haven bowling alley in a stolen vehicle to wait for members of the opposing gang.
When the rival gang members left the bowling alley in a silver Toyota Camry hours later, the suspects followed. Sometime later, deputies said the three boys passed the rival gang’s vehicle and stopped in front of it before they opened fire and sent “many, many, many rounds of ammunition” into the sedan.
“There was a hail of gunfire down on this victim’s vehicle,” Judd said. “They waited hours for [the victims] in the parking lot in order to kill all of them.”
Judd said all four people in the sedan were struck by gunfire. A 20-year-old victim described only as a “black male” was killed in the shooting. A 17-year-old “Hispanic male” was struck at least four times. Deputies said his leg was ultimately amputated as a result of his injuries.
“They’re all kids and they’re all gang members,” Judd said during the press conference.
“These three people’s lives have changed forever because of their outrageous, criminal, felonious, murdering conduct,” Judd added. He later stated, “We aren’t going to let kids shoot kids in this county. You do it, you’re going to prison for a very long time or life.”
The Sheriff said a fourth person was in the suspect’s vehicle at the time of the shooting but said deputies are working to find more information before an arrest is made. An investigation is ongoing.
“You’re going to find out this is not fun and games and the prison system is real and we’re coming after you,” Judd said.
Judd briefly mentioned the assembly of a special task force aimed at stopping and preventing gangs, but noted he would release more information on the task force at a later date.