Interactive map: Sanford 'hurting' after shooting spree

By Julie Gargotta, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 28, 2017, 6:15 PM EST

On the heels of another shooting in Sanford, marking the seventh in the past month, some are determined to move the city forward.

“This community is hurting. And the people are hurting," Mario J. Hicks said Tuesday. "And the only way to overcome that is happiness, love and support."

In 2008, Hicks started a small towing business, Off The Chain Towing, as an homage to his father, who taught him about cars growing up.

More recently, the lifelong Sanford resident launched an initiative, Sanford Forward, hoping to give back to a community — one in which he could never leave.

“This is where my family is and this is where roots are," he said. “The ones who were raised here all their life — they don’t want to be any other place.”

Last week, Hicks and other business owners, from attorneys to landscaping companies, put goodwill into action, serving almost 400 meals to neighbors in need at a local park for Thanksgiving.

“This is a community that doesn’t have a lot of money. We wanted to provide something nice," he said, describing the experience as “gratifying."

Although meals can heal, Hicks knows countering the violence can be difficult.

At about 2 a.m. Tuesday, police said a car pulled up outside a home on Hughes Avenue and McKay Boulevard and started shooting.

The shooting injured a 34-year-old woman. After the car drove off and the passenger, accused of the shooting, bailed, police arrested an 18-year-old man.

“They’re charging him with violation of probation. Right now, they don’t have enough to charge him with the shooting," said Ronny Neal with the Sanford Police Department.

Yet, this shooting is just the latest in a string of shootings in Sanford: Seven in the past month alone, two of which were deadly.

In one nonfatal shooting, a 16-year-old high school basketball player was shot in the head as he slept in his bed. He continues to recover from his injuries.

On Tuesday, police were tight-lipped about drawing a link between the incidents, or define them as gang or drug-related violence.

“I couldn’t say that we have a crime problem. It’s active. We have some things that we’re concerned about and simply that we’re looking into it," Neal said.

But last month, the city's police chief was asked the same question.

"It’s interesting you talk about gangs. I think we have a couple of factions in town, some that have been here for years and years and years," Chief Cecil Smith said. "It’s kind of difficult to actually say that."

As police step up patrols, some concerned neighbors, such as Hicks, are stepping up as well. He knows all too well the reality of gun violence, his first cousin paralyzed after a shooting.

“It just gives me the momentum and drive to say, 'What can we do to change this? What can we do to turn it around?' And I have to do my part," he said. “I believe moving Sanford forward in a positive way is what needs to be done.” 

A look at the recent shootings