MARION COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida authorities have arrested a third suspect after three teenagers were found shot to death in various parts of Central Florida last week.
According to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, 16-year-old Tahj Brewton was arrested on Saturday, April 8, after the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and Florida U.S. Marshals found him just south of Groveland, Florida.
Brewton was arrested on several outstanding warrants, including carjacking with a firearm, aggravated assault, grand theft of a motor vehicle, fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement office and tampering with an electronic monitoring device.
As the investigation into the homicides continues, the 16-year-old may be facing additional charges, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
In addition to Brewton’s arrest, police have also arrested 17-year-old Robert Robinson and 12-year-old Christopher De’l Atkins for their alleged connections to the three murders. The two are being charged with first-degree murder, according to Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods.
Woods said the suspects and victims were “part of a gang and would commit robberies together, but things took a dark turn.”
“Basically, in simple terms, there’s no honor among thieves,” Woods said, “And at some point, these three individuals turned on our three victims and murdered them.”
In a Friday press conference, Woods described the ages of the perpetrators as “shocking.”
While it may be shocking, it’s not an isolated incident. Nationwide, the number of murders committed by children under 14 hit its highest level in two decades, according to federal data.
Violent crime involving young people in American cities and small towns like Ocklawaha, which has a population of 1500.
In South Carolina on Friday six people were shot, most of them teenagers, during a senior skip day on Isle of Palms. Hundreds of high schoolers were gathered by a pier when teens started shooting. Police said they arrested a 16-year-old in connection with the shooting.
As with Florida, investigators say gang activity may have contributed. Former Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina works with Department of Justice helping local police departments. He said kids being out of school during the pandemic contributed to the rise in youth crime, and social media is also a factor because it fuels feuds among young people. Gangs are also recruiting younger members.
“First of all, this is incredibly tragic. And this is nationwide. I mean everyone that I speak to tells me the same thing. They are younger and younger. You stop three kids in a car, young adults, and it is the 13-year-old who has the gun. And that is because they gave him the gun,” Colina said.
He said often times older gang members will give the younger kids the guns, thinking if they get caught the punishment will be less because they’re juveniles. In the recent Florida killings, the State Attorney’s office is reviewing the case to determine if any of the suspects will be charged as adults.