DELAND, Fla. —The DeLand police chief and the Volusia County sheriff say they were told the block party was supposed to be a celebration for a man who was murdered years ago and that organizers had a permit.
Officials say there was not a permit and it wasn’t advertised as a memorial.
“To wave the race card around is a coward’s ways of saying this was out of control, this was an embarrassment,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood and DeLand Police chief Jason Umberger say they got wind of the party in the predominately African American community of Spring Hill through a flyer which makes no mention of a memorial.
For much of the day, though large, it was generally peaceful. Officials said that changed as it got later in the evening.
“The thing that initially started it was a deputy had a rifle pointed at him and that’s when the whole dynamic changed,” Umberger said.
Investigators say 95% of attendees were out to have a good time but a small number, particularly those from out-of-county, caused chaos.
Officials said law enforcement witnessed the rifle incident and a handgun being passed around.
“You had 5% that was out there, inciting a riot, carrying firearms, selling drugs and destroying the quality of life for the community,” Chitwood said.
“A DeLand police officer was struck in the head by a glass jar,” Umberger said. “A VSO deputy was struck with a bar stool and another sustained a leg injury.”
Officials say the party was moving from place to place, endangering motorists and pedestrians. Officials say pop-up parties occur regularly in Spring Hill, usually without issue. They say this one took a different turn with weapons and drugs recovered and seven arrests.
“When you are out there doing your job, you need to get support from the community. Black, white, brown or yellow, doesn’t matter what happened out there, it was wrong,” Chitwood said.