News 12 at 6 o'clock, Monday, July 9, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Augusta's First Friday shooting is now considered gang related. Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver and Sheriff Ronnie Strength are speaking out about where to go from here.
"Personally," declared Sheriff Ronnie Strength about First Friday. "I do not like it."
Have we seen the last First Friday event in downtown Augusta? Deputies are investigating a shooting involving 6 people.
"Every vendor will shut down, put there stuff in their vehicles, and they will leave," said Strength. "Therefore there is none of this going on after 10 o'clock at night."
The mass shooting is now considered gang related.
"We can't say these are young folks looking for something to do," said Strength. "They are also thugs that come down here that are looking for something to do, and they should not be around or associated with law abiding citizens."
Sheriff Strength is issuing an ultimatum to downtown merchants.
"If they want it," said Strength. "They should be paying for this. This is not a city sponsored event."
"I think they are barking up the wrong tree," said Dr. Benjamin Cassella who is president of the Downtown Business Alliance. "Until you pass a law to say that it's against the law to be an idiot, bad stuff is going to happen at midnight."
The mayor agrees.
"I think it is more about how can we improve it," said Copenhaver. "Nobody can flip the switch and pull the plug on people coming downtown on the first Friday of the month."
The city's top cop is not backing down. He wants business owners to pay up for extra security.
"If not," said Strength. "I would doubt First Friday would have much of a future."
The event is held each month from 5pm to 10pm.