The future of First Friday is hanging in the balance after a shooting in July left six people injured. (WRDW-TV)
News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, July 17, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The First Friday shooting that left six people injured has the sheriff calling for calm.
"Other than the media causing this frenzy, which they have, what in the world are we worried about?" asked Sheriff Ronnie Strength.
The sheriff blames the media for in his words, blowing things out of proportion.
"This much coverage was not done on the Fort Hood shooting when several people were killed ... so I definitely blame a lot of this hysteria on the media because perception is reality," he said.
So Strength is planning to set the record straight.
"Everybody says First Friday ... technically First Friday is over when we've had any problems," he said.
The event ends at 10 p.m. The shooting happened at 11:30 p.m.
"Somebody has got to step up and say, 'I'm in charge of First Friday. I'm going to make contact with all the vendors prior to, I'm going to stay down there the whole time, and I'm going to make sure when First Friday is officially over that every vendor packs up and leaves,'" he said.
The sheriff is planning to release crime stats for downtown.
"As a matter of fact, when I got them from our stats, I was shocked that the numbers were so low," he said.
In an attempt to shut down concerns once and for all, he says, "The numbers do not show at all and not close that downtown is dangerous ... that is blown out of proportion."
Strength says violent crime is actually down in Richmond County. He plans to release those numbers on Wednesday during a public meeting. It will be held at the downtown library at 7 p.m.