Video footage of a couple hundred teens piling into a Jacksonville Wal-Mart, destroying produce and stealing snacks went viral on YouTube and was shown on television newscasts across the country. Now, police have singled out one person they are looking for in connection with the incident this month, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Jacksonville police has shown the screenshot pulled from a security video of a woman, asking the public for help identifying her. Police have not publicly stated what her role is, according to the newspaper. The teens went to the Wal-Mart after a massive house party in the area was broken up, according to the newspaper. Police later learned one of the party goers was shot and then started investigating that shooting. The woman could be wanted for questioning in relation to the shooting, or to the party. While the shooting is obviously the most serious crime and will command the most attention from police, interesting legal questions would arise should police seek to identify and try to prosecute any of the teens who stormed the store. One of them took video footage and posted it on YouTube. It’s a safe bet that he or she has already had a visit from the police. Dozens of faces in the video are clearly identifiable and several other teens can be seen taking photographs or video from their cell phones.
There is some footage of fruit being smashed, and store officials reported drinks and snacks being stolen, but none of those are serious crimes. Jacksonville Criminal Mischief, essentially vandalism, is a misdemeanor, as is a Jacksonville Petit Theft – anything stolen from a store with a value of under $300. But police could try to identify more people from the store and bring people in for questioning, which would likely lead to a massive string of people either giving names of people in attendance or not talking at all. Proof of an actual crime would be difficult, but police could decide to do it more to discourage that type of behavior in the future. Police have used similar methods to identify rioters on college campuses for example, and the proliferation of cell phone cameras has made it easier to identify people than ever before. Police used to have to rely on news footage and were often unsuccessful in court in trying to get newspapers and television stations to turn over pictures and footage that were not published. Now, it seems, everyone has a camera rolling.
If police do in fact come calling to speak with the teens, they have a right to remain silent and to speak with a Jacksonville Criminal Attorney. Anytime you or a loved one thinks they may be contacted by police, it could be a tremendous benefit to speak with a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney first, just to be prepared on how the encounter with police may go. If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Jacksonville Theft Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.