13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Suzy Lopez

Hillsborough County State Attorney Suzy Lopez Cracks Down On Teen Gun Violence

13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Suzy Lopez
13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Suzy Lopez (TFP Photo)

TAMPA, Fla. – 13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Suzy Lopez announced Friday a change in how violent juvenile offender cases are evaluated and offenders charged with the rise in teen gun violence.

“We have a team who evaluates each case; they look at the defendant’s age, the charge, the prior history, and other factors,” said Lopez Friday. “For example, most recently, a juvenile was direct filed into adult court. For the last three years, he has had over 20 pending cases in the juvenile system, many involving guns. He picked up a new charge that was gun related, and that charge was direct filed into adult court.”

On average, the percentage of gun-related juvenile cases prosecuted as adults has increased by more than 20% under Lopez.

“It is incredibly rare that a juvenile’s first offense is murder or attempted murder; we tend to see patterns of escalating violence,” said Lopez.

Teen Gun Violence Tampa
Source: State Attorney Suzy Lopez

To address the rise in teen gun violence in the Tampa Bay area, Lopez has changed how the agency evaluates the most serious juvenile gun violence cases by ensuring the punishment fits the crime.

“Prolific teen offenders will face more serious consequences compared to years prior,” according to Lopez’s office. “While it would be our preference that there be no children handling guns in our community, anyone who uses a gun to commit an act of violence must face the consequences to keep our community safe.”

Teen Gun Violence Tampa
Source: State Attorney Suzy Lopez

At a press conference Friday, Lopez presented a video of an incident on the evening of new year’s day 2023 at Curtis Hixson Park, which started as a fight and led to a teen shooting.

“The events you were about to see did not happen at midnight or two or three in the morning. They happened at 8:00 pm,” said Lopez.

Warning the video below contains language and violence.

“We are better adjusting to the needs of our community and I command the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office and the Tampa Police Department for their incredible work, boots on the ground every day, to get guns off of the street and out of the hands of juveniles,” said Lopez.

“A prosecutor’s tool is to prosecute. I will,” said Lopez.

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