Polk sheriff blasts 'hug-a-thug' juvenile justice system after suspect's arrest

Jahmari McCray is charged with attempted second-degree murder.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – The man suspected of shooting a woman inside a car outside of a gas station told Polk County sheriff’s deputies the gun went off accidentally, Sheriff Grady Judd said Thursday.

Judd said at a news conference Thursday it was no accident that Jahmari McCray shot a 62-year-old woman Sunday, Dec. 10.

“Do I believe it? Absolutely not, and it doesn’t make any difference whether it accidentally went off or not,” Judd said at a news conference. “When you point a gun at somebody, and discharge it into them, and then you run and leave them for dead, that is attempted {second-degree} murder.”

McCray, 18, is charged with attempted second-degree murder, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, carrying a concealed firearm, discharging a firearm in public, possession of an altered firearm, attempted armed robbery and four counts of violation of parole.

The charges stem from a Sunday, Dec. 10, morning shooting at the Circle K on Spirit Lake Road in Winter Haven.

Authorities are housing McCray at the South County Jail. He is scheduled for a court appearance at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Judd said the sheriff’s office will pay two people for $2,000 each for providing information that led to McCray’s arrest.

“I asked my staff to ensure that they have that cash money before Christmas,” Judd said.

McCray has an arrest record dating back to 2005. Sheriff's office records show Mccray was arrested for grand theft in July 2016. In October, he was arrested as an adult for grand theft and burglary.

Judd said those in the juvenile justice system practice "hug-a-thug."

"He got a lot of brakes that he shouldn't have gotten," Judd said. "Along the way in the criminal justice system, he learned to write a great apology letter."

Judd said McCray sent a letter to a judge asking for one more chance, he was put on probation. McCray cut off his ankle monitor on Dec. 5, according to Judd.

Judd said if McCray "had been locked up," the victim would be "having a great Christmas with her family, instead of fighting for her life and now recovering in the hospital."

"So, I ask the legislators, before you listen to that hug-a-thug bunch, go ask {the victim} what she thinks about the forgiveness of the criminal justice system," Judd said. "Had it been just a little tougher, she wouldn't have been shot.

"By the grace of God, she's still alive."

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Watch: Click or tap here to view Thursday's news conference in its entirety

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