Thursday afternoon, two teenage girls riding the school bus on Jacksonville’s Westside sustained non-life threatening gunshot wounds. The two were the only students to be wounded in a school bus filled with students.
The events occurred at approximately 4:30 PM at the corner of Blanding and 118th street, when two unidentified African American men opened fire. According to eyewitnesses, the two unidentified gunmen began firing at the bus as it was driving its normal route between three alternative schools that it serves.
Both girls, aged 14 and 15 are in stable condition and being treated at UF Health Jacksonville. Despite serious injuries ( one of the girls suffered a gunshot wound which pierced both her cheeks while the other bullet struck the second victim in the head), both girls survived and are doing well.
“When I got word of the shooting there was a deep anger that permeated my whole being. A level of frustration, being horrified and just sickened by the fact that our children can’t be children, that students can’t be students,” Nikolai Vitti, Duval County Public Schools Superintendent said in a statement.
The superintendent also spoke about the numerous acts of violence in the area, which has become known as a danger zone.
Jacksonville law enforcement officers are now searching for the suspects who fled the scene. According to witness descriptions, the two men are in their late teens or early 20s, one of them shirtless.
Apparently, the two shooters had wanted to fight with one of the passengers on the bus but as the driver attempted to drive away, they began shooting.
The bus company responsible for the students’ transportation to and from the three schools it serves (Mattie V. Rutheford Alternative Education Center, Grand Park Career Center and James Weldon Johnson Academic and Career Training Center) also released a statement.
Eric Taylor, Operations VP at Birnie Bus Service, expressed his gratitude that no other children had been injured and that neither victim was in critical condition, noting that student safety was the company’s main concern.
Mayor Alvin Brown also issued a statement condemning the cowardice of the two shooters. He pointed out that the raging violence in the area was intolerable and underlined the necessity for stronger community commitment towards violence prevention and law enforcement.
Image Source: jacksonville.com
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