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Carolyn Ten Broeck
WILLISTON — 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, billed by promoters as a cultural event for the black community, which occurs every April on County Road 318, east of Williston.
Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum said the incident erupted at 8:05 p.m. and law enforcement personnel were on the scene shortly thereafter.
“There were 10,000-plus here,” McCallum said later Saturday night. “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 C.R. 318 to traffic by that time and the vehicle involved was within that area.
McCallum and law enforcement officers worked through the night interviewing witnesses, trying to sort through what happened.
On 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 the incident may have stemmed from a drug-related retaliation, noting that his department received intelligence three weeks prior that led them to believe there was potential for such an incident.
Crabfest began 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 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.
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 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 photos and video recordings. 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.