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Suspect, 16, Arrested In Fatal Shooting At Raines HS Football Game

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Facebook page
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office
Mayor Lenny Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams, and State Attorney Melissa Nelson at Tuesday's press conference announcing an arrest in Friday's fatal shooting at a Raines HS football game

Police say they have a 16-year-old suspect in custody in connection with last Friday’s shooting after a Raines High School football game, which left one dead and two wounded.

Suspect Robert Howard was found and arrested on Tuesday morning, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams announced Tuesday afternoon.

“How did we get to the point that a 16-year-old male thinks it’s OK to murder someone in cold blood at a high school football game. That’s unbelievable,” Williams said.

Williams said witness interviews led investigators to the Grand Park Alternative School student.

Howard is facing one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder.

He’s accused of killing 19-year-old Joe Rod Smith, wounding a 17-year-old male student from Jean Ribault High School who was with Smith, and a 16-year-old girl who was hit by a stray bullet.

The 17-year-old victim is still being treated at a hospital, where he’s listed in stable condition. The 16-year-old girl was treated and has been released.

Witnesses said that several fights broke out in the stadium during the second half of Friday night’s football game against Lee High School. The victim had been ejected from the stadium by Duval County Public Schools police officers for his role in those fights. Detectives believe Howard may have been in an altercation at some point with the two male victims.

After the game, Howard allegedly followed Smith and the 17-year-old victim outside before shooting them on the sidewalk with a handgun.

Williams said investigators believe Howard targeted the two males because of the altercation inside the stadium, but the motive is still under investigation.

“All three males in this incident have associations with known criminal street gang members in the city,” said Williams. “And we believe the confrontation could be the motive. However, their associations with these criminal street gangs opens up other potential motives.”

“One gang is one gang too many,” Williams said. “We have a segment of the population here that’s involved in that. That segment is what drives a significant portion of the violence in our community.”

Williams said he and Mayor Lenny Curry will be meeting later this week to talk about potential strategies for dealing with gang violence in Jacksonville.

According to State Attorney Melissa Nelson, Howard had been arrested for carrying a concealed firearm back in April. However, those charges had to be dropped due to evidentiary problems that arose during the discovery process.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.

Special Projects Producer Brendan Rivers joined WJCT News in August of 2018 after several years as a reporter and then News Director at Southern Stone Communications, which owns and operates several radio stations in the Daytona Beach area.