Case of security guard accused of murder raises concerns over illegal gambling sites in Jacksonville

For more than 10 years, the city has been fighting illegal gambling game rooms. Now, at one illegal facility, a man police said was working as a security guard is accused of murder.

Adult game rooms with computer slots, and some with card games, have moved underground in Jacksonville since the city has cracked down and made them illegal.

Crime and public safety are one of the main reasons cited for closing them down.

Now, a Jacksonville security guard is being accused of the murder of 23-year-old Martaiz Deshawn McGruder after he allegedly attacked the manager of an illegal gambling facility in Brentwood and tried to grab $5,000, according to a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office report released on Tuesday.

Police said McGruder was not armed.

Earl Coleman, 61, was working security at the site. He heard the manager yell for help and ran over to the fight. Police say McGruder put his hands up and then ran out the door and into a car.

Three shots were fired. McGruder was hit and later dropped off at the hospital, where he died.

Coleman now faces a second-degree murder charge.

MORE | 61-year-old man arrested and charged with second-degree murder after altercation on North Main Street

Police said when investigators went to the gaming room, they talked to the manager who is not identified in the report.

The manager indicated that the security guards are told to not shoot customers who are only trying to steal money.

News4JAX asked Tom Hackney, former JSO chief if he believes the charges would’ve been different if the man was a police officer and not a security guard.

“I think if the facts were the same, I certainly think it would be possible that something like that would happen,” Hackney said.

Coleman is still in jail awaiting trial.

News4JAX tried checking with the property owner, which is listed as a convenience store. Those inside the store had nothing to say about what took place or what happened inside the vacant store.

Other businesses nearby said the gambling room was operating on the down low.

News4JAX also went to the victim’s home and talked to a family member, who did not want to go on camera. But they said they were not aware of all of the details of McGruder’s death.

This is just the latest crime to occur at a gaming site.

There has also been concern about an increase in gaming rooms reopening illegally in Jacksonville.

“There is money people make through these. The house always wins. So there is an incentive in that part to have these and whether they are legal or not or, you are operating them within the law or not. I think they have always existed,” Hackney said.

In the meantime, more questions remain on how the illegal game room was allowed to operate and who was running the operation.

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