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Dignity Village Ax Attack Prompts Talks On Safety

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The pictured tents, resident Mike Mcneal said, belonged to Anthony Davis, who attacked another resident with an axe Saturday. A Gainesville Police Officer patrols nearby. “I’m not saying that Dignity Village is 100 percent criminals. There are some very good people that live out there, some very good people that are truly down on their luck.” But, there is a criminal element that lives out there. If it wasn’t, we would not have to put two full-time police officers out there,” GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias said. (Photo by Giuseppe Sabella).
A Gainesville police officer patrols near tents that belonged to Anthony Davis, who attacked another resident with an ax Saturday. “I’m not saying that Dignity Village is 100 percent criminals,” police spokesman Officer Ben Tobias said. “But there is a criminal element that lives out there. If it wasn’t, we would not have to put two full-time police officers out there.” (Giuseppe Sabella/WUFT News)

A Dignity Village resident said he cannot sleep after seeing two knife attacks — one in defense of a man with an ax Saturday — in 10 months.

The resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said he treated a stab wound on his neighbor’s abdomen in Saturday’s incident.

“I just pushed his guts back in and hold them in until the police got here,” he said.

The resident said those who live at Dignity Village have issues that can’t be remedied by a police presence. The city, the resident added, should provide residents of the village, which is comprised of tents and borders Grace Marketplace, with health assistance.

“If they want to do anything, tell them to get me a mental doctor because I need one,” he said.

The suspect who allegedly started the dispute Saturday, Anthony D. Davis, 42, drunkenly entered the front yard of a 63-year-old man’s tent about 3:45 p.m. Saturday and said, “You’re the reason why I’m getting evicted,” according to a Gainesville police report.

Davis grabbed an ax during the ensuing argument and chased the man, who soon fell to the ground. Davis then attacked him with the blunt end of the ax, causing a small cut to his ear and forehead, the report said.

The man grabbed a nearby kitchen knife and stabbed Davis, who was transported to UF Health hospital and was charged with attempted homicide, according to the report.

The man who stabbed Davis, whom other residents call “Pine,” sat in his tent Monday morning and declined to comment.

In another incident in April 2015, a resident refused to give his beer to 36-year-old Donnie G. Mitchell, who responded by stabbing the resident in his neck and stomach, according to police.

Gainesville police spokesman Officer Ben Tobias said the department started assigning two full-time officers to patrol the village last year.

Still, a collaboration among Gainesville police, Gainesville Fire Rescue and city commissioners could lead to more precautions in the future, he said.

“Any time that you have an act of violence,” Tobias said, “you always go back to the drawing board to see what you can do better.”

Davis, the attacker in Saturday’s incident, has been found guilty of 15 offenses since 2006, including shooting into an occupied dwelling, felony battery, burglary and resisting arrest, according to Alachua County court records.

Maria Rodriguez, a Dignity Village resident since June, said people should be required to undergo a background check before moving into the village.

During Saturday’s incident, Rodriguez said she saw about 10 police cars on her way to dinner and suspected alcohol played a part in the attack.

“Of course, the alcohol is available, and the drugs are available in here,” she said.

Rodriguez said if residents were mandated to work a certain amount of hours each week, they would have less time and desire to indulge in substance abuse or violence.

Overall, the village is valuable to residents who need help getting back on their feet, she said, and programs such as cleaning, crafting and gardening would occupy their time, increasing safety. 

Resident Mike McNeal said he woke up about 11 a.m. Saturday and saw Davis drinking and yelling.

“A lot of people out here have mental issues and they drink, and that’s what causes it,” he said.

But the village is generally safe, McNeal said, especially when residents make an effort to avoid confrontation.

“Just stick to yourself and try to live your life and get up out of here,” he said.

Kenneth Armstrong, executive director at the Alachua County Housing Authority, said some residents receive vouchers for service from Gainesville’s Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, but the overall solution is permanent housing.

Armstrong, who became the director last year, said his organization can do a better job finding grants, which would provide Gainesville’s homeless population with more housing options. 

“We’re going to try to get every dollar to Gainesville that we can,” he said.

About Giuseppe Sabella

Giuseppe is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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