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A long-time celebration was marred Saturday night when shots rang out at Crabfest, killing one and injuring four others.
Barry Barney, 36, died after being shot at Crabfest, which, billed by promoters as a cultural event for the black community, occurs every April on CR 318, east of Williston.
Sheriff Bobby McCallum said the incident erupted at 8:05 p.m. and law enforcement agents were on the scene immediately.
"There were 10,000 plus here," McCallum said via telephone around 11 p.m. "We had 70 law enforcement personnel on standby and within minutes had both a triage area and a chopper on the scene."
The sheriff said deputies had already closed Hwy. 318 to traffic by that time and the vehicle involved was already within the area.
McCallum and law enforcment officers worked through the night interviewing witnesses and trying to sort through what happened.
Monday, Devonte Ocasio, 19, was arrested and charged with first degree murder and aggravated assault with a firearm. He was booked into the Levy County jail shortly after 2 p.m. Bond was set at $1.5 million.
McCallum speculated that the incident may have stemmed from a drug-related retaliation, adding his department received intelligence three weeks ago that led them to believe there may be drug-related retaliation action during the event.
Crabfest begun several years ago as a neighborhood cookout and in recent times has grown into an event that includes vendors and entertainment.
The sheriff’s office reported that the event was unsanctioned and unpermitted.
“While it is called the “Crab Festival”, it is actually a series of “Hip Hop” style street parties,” the sheriff’s office reported in a release Sunday morning.
The Levy County Department of Public Safety had pre-staged ambulances and a medical helicopter in the area for the festival. The large crowds made it impossible for ambulances to reach the wounded. Despite the large crowds walking and dancing in the roadway, Deputies and EMS personnel were able to evacuate the victims in law enforcement and private vehicles.
Investigators recovered some physical evidence, including shell casings at the scene and the investigation is ongoing. Deputies ask that any witnesses to the shootings contact Lt. Scott Tummond at 352-486-5111 or Crime Stoppers at 1-877-349-8477.
Investigators are especially interested in obtaining video or photographs taken at the Festival, as many people were seen taking photo’s and recordings with cell phones and I-Pads. Witnesses can remain anonymous by giving information through Crime Stoppers. A reward of up to $1,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
In a memo to his staff, McCallum wrote, “As we move forward we will be debriefing and doing after-action reviews to see if there are those things we might do differently. However, the actions and reactions of all of you during this event and the aftermath have been exceptional in my opinion. I am thankful to the partnership with have with LCDPS personnel and felt it important to let you know through this memorandum to the Sheriff's Office employees how much all of you are appreciated by us.”
Editor's Note: The Williston Pioneer reached out to more than half dozen people who were in attendance at Crabfest, but at press time, no one had responded.