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Vigil held at Bo Diddley Plaza following man's death at Alachua County Jail

April Johnson (left), Marcus Goodman’s sister, with her family members holding up a sign at Bo Diddley Plaza on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Javier Palacios/WUFT News)
April Johnson (left), Marcus Goodman’s sister, with her family members holding up a sign at Bo Diddley Plaza on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Javier Palacios/WUFT News)

One hundred people gathered Thursday night at Bo Diddley Plaza for a moment of silence in the wake of an inmate's death at the Alachua County Jail in late January.

The vigil began Thursday at 7 p.m. in Downtown Gainesville to remember Marcus Goodman, a man who spent more than a year in jail on a 2021 burglary charge. According to Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr., Goodman died from a “medical emergency” and was pronounced dead on Jan. 26, ahead of an expected release while his case heads to trial.

“They don’t have their brother, their uncle, their son with them,” said Danielle Chanzes, a community organizer.

Chanzes, 30, said that Goodman was not a name she should have known because he should’ve been provided with the correct mental health resources to return to his family.

April Johnson, Goodman’s 33-year-old sister, said her brother suffered from mental illness, yet had no prior medical conditions. Johnson said she still has no details on the medical emergency, but anything would help the family get closure.

“I never thought I’d live this life,” she said to those who attended the vigil. “I see this on the news. I don’t want to stand here, I lost my brother.”

The vigil was filled with community members, Goodman’s family and strangers who were passing by. Members were encouraged to speak as the event came to an end.

“As a human being who has lost a wife and daughter, I want everyone to remember this family,” said Leigh Scott, a fellow at the local organization Community Spring. “Not now, but six months from now… or a year from now. When the protests stop… and that family is alone with their grief and pain. That’s when they’re going to need us. Don’t let them be alone.”

Scott said that when he lost his wife and daughter, his grief wasn’t met with support and resources. Instead, it was met with a taser, a canine and an isolation cell at the Alachua County Jail.

Kenjee Roker, a 23-year-old who uses they/he pronouns, said that they initially felt emotional and powerlessness during the vigil.

“You should never have to bury your child,” said Roker, a Community Spring fellow said. “I kept thinking about my brother. He has schizophrenia and he’s in jail for something that has nothing to do with his mental illness, the same way that Marcus was.

Lilly Swanson, a 20-year-old anthropology student at the University of Florida, attended her first vigil.

“It’s different hearing from people directly involved in your community,” she said. “There were members of his family here that were crying during the vigil. It was another way to see how these larger issues directly impact our community.”

Johnson created a GoFundMe for funeral costs and other burial expenses.

Javier is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.