A Florida sheriff has warned of ‘unsavory’ gang members gatherings at large parties intended to increase the spread of coronavirus in the region.
Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson said ‘residents are afraid’ after more than 600 noise complaints have been filed since March due to massive parties attended by hundreds of people and hosted in vacation rental homes.
Shocking video released by the sheriff’s office shows dozens of cars blocking off a roadway in early July where a large group of people gathered to dance and party in the street.
Footage from May shows even more cars blocking off a full intersection before the party was broken up by cops, as the sheriff warns that locals are ‘living a life of terror right now’.
Footage from one of the parties in May shows cars blocking off a full intersection before the party was broken up by cops. The local sheriff believes the group wants to spread coronavirus
In another clip from July, party-goers in Florida are seen dancing in the streets
The parties are sometimes attended by up to 400 people and one person has already been killed as a result of shootings among those attending.
Sheriff Gibson warned Click Orlando that he believes those gathered are ‘trying to mingle to potentially spread the virus among each other’.
He said that the county is experiencing is sudden recent spike in coronavirus cases as as result.
‘They’re being referred to, from what I’m being told, as COVID-19 parties where they’re actually getting together and they’re trying to mingle to potentially spread the virus amongst each other if they’re asymptomatic or whatever the case might be,’ Gibson said.
‘We’ve just seen a tremendous spike just here in Osceola County.’
Gibson said that while those who attend the party may not be in severe danger of COVID-19, there is a fear of who they will then spread the disease to.
‘The problem is is when you have this and you take it back home to a parent or grandparent, and unknowingly pass that virus on to them, and potentially end their life. It’s just not worth it,’ Gibson said.
Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson said ‘residents are afraid’
‘And you have to think beyond the moment. And I think sometimes our young folks are just thinking about the moment.’
As well as the threat of coronavirus spread, he also cautioned that gangs are involved in renting the houses.
Gibson believes that the groups come from central Florida and rent multiple vacation homes in the area, focusing on three gated housing developments in particular.
‘Well, a lot of times, we’ve been finding out that there are people here that are unsavory people that you wouldn’t want in your neighborhoods. There are some gangs, that are renting these houses, and they’re coming here to Osceola County. And this is something that we have to protect our residents with,’ Gibson said.
A man has already been arrested following a fatal shooting at one of the parties in April.
Demetrius Cox, 20, was taken into custody after he fatally shot a man at one of the house parties.
Wolph Lutherking Luma, also 20, was dropped off to Dr. Phillip’s Hospital in Orange County after being shot at the party in the Stoneybrook South subdivision in Davenport.
Local police had already attended to the location after reports of gunfire but could not find a victim.
Demetrius Cox, 20, (pictured) was taken into custody after he fatally shot a man at one of the house parties in April. The sheriff said at least 600 noise complaints have been received
The sheriff’s office claims that the parties, pictured, can be attended by up to 400 people
They park dozens of cars on the road to block off streets so attendees can dance on the street
‘These are real situations, very dangerous situations and our residents are afraid, you know, and we don’t want that,’ Gibson said of the ongoing problem.
‘And we don’t want to feel like, other than dispersing this, that we’re powerless and they just continue to happen. Osceola County can’t be listed as party central or COVID-19 party central and then we’re not going to do that.’
Gibson says that the cops have been able to disperse some of the parties but at others, fireworks have been thrown at officers to push them back.
‘Last week someone, some folks in the crowd threw some fireworks at the deputies that were there. They did the right thing, they backed out, they waited for extra resources to arrive and then we went in and took care of the party,’ Gibson told Click Orlando. ‘We dispersed it.’
He added that a gun was recovered an some shots were fired at the same party.
The sheriff now hopes that his office will be able to work with local politicians to change the way in which local tourism works and put an end to the COVID parties.
‘If I have to bring a lobbyist on to the sheriff’s office to help us up there in Tallahassee, that is what we’ll do to get these laws changed that affect the tourism industry in Central Florida. Anywhere where there’s tourism, these houses and these parties can go on,’ Gibson said.
‘We’re not going to issue citations when we go to these homes when we see these open house parties. We’re going to get them on their way. They’re not going to be permitted to stay.’
There are 5,556 cases of coronavirus confirmed in Osceola County, according to the local health authority, with 286 news cases confirmed since Thursday.
The county has suffered 38 coronavirus deaths.
Large parties have also remained a problem in other parts of Florida.
In May, a massive memorial block party with 3,000 attendees resulted in seven people arrested, one man tasered, one shot, and one deputy injured.
Shocking aerial and bodycam footage was released showing thousands of locals in the streets in Southwest DeLand at a memorial block party for Kenya Alexander, a DeLand man who was murdered in 2008.
Helicopter footage showed how the party spanned several blocks on West Lisbon Parkway with hundreds of cars parked along a corner of a park.
After the day event ended, the party took a violent turn where revelers threw bottles and bar stools at cops trying to break up the gathering around midnight, according to the Volusia Sheriff’s Office.
While locals at the party said the gathering was peaceful and police incited the problems, the Volusia Sheriff’s Office released body camera and helicopter footage in response to show just how the party had gotten out of hand.
A memorial block party of 3,000 in Florida in May resulted in seven people arrested, one man being tasered and one deputy injured. Helicopter footage of the massive gathering above
Florida has seen drastic surge in coronavirus cases, with the Florida Health Department reporting 322,994 positive cases and at least 4,912 deaths on Friday.
In the last two months, the state has taken the US’s spot at the COVID-19 epicenter after New York managed to lower its numbers since March.
In fact, on Friday Florida recorded the highest number of increased cases with 11,459 confirmed cases and 128 new deaths.
Much of the outbreak is concentrated in Southern Florida, where areas like Miami-Dade and Broward County have become swamped in cases.
WFLA reports that on Friday that 366 infected patients were hospitalized, and add to the the total of 1,693 residents admitted in Tampa.
Across the state, there were 8,886 patients admitted to hospitals.
Younger Floridians have been the source of new cases as residents aged from 25 to 34 recorded the most recent ones.