Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Homeowner Fights to Keep the City Safe; Shots Were Fired into Her Home, but She Says She Can't Be Scared Away

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Homeowner Fights to Keep the City Safe; Shots Were Fired into Her Home, but She Says She Can't Be Scared Away

Article excerpt

Byline: JIM SCHOETTLER

Lani Ruffolo said God sent her to live in one of Jacksonville's toughest neighborhoods seven years ago and she's not leaving until he says so.

Not even with the slaying that happened outside her home Saturday night. Or the four bullets fired into her home seven hours later as she and her son slept. That attack, Ruffolo believes, was a warning for her to keep silent about anything she saw earlier.

But Ruffolo said the gunfire and other crime, a common occurrence where she lives in Durkeeville, will not keep her down. She insists her neighborhood can be a good place to live, and she wants the criminals to know she won't leave easily.

"I am not going to be a victim in this," said Ruffolo, 54, who lives at Steele Street and Blue Avenue. The Times-Union usually does not identify victims when arrests haven't been made, but Ruffolo wanted to be named.

"I want to die fighting for a good cause," she said. "Standing on a street corner proclaiming good news ... not staying behind closed doors scared."

The weekend's violence began just before 9 p.m. Saturday when a gunman killed Mary McAllister as she and her daughter stopped outside Ruffolo's house. Police said someone shot into their pickup truck, leaving McAllister gravely wounded and her daughter hit by flying glass. McAllister, 54, was later pronounced dead at Shands Jacksonville.

Ruffolo said her son, 23, viewed surveillance video that captured the slaying from the Spoken Word Ministries church across the street.

She said her son told her that the video shows a man walking north on Blue Avenue and stopping on a sidewalk at the intersection. She said a neighbor's vehicle is seen stopping at a stop sign on Blue, then turning onto Steele Street. She said McAllister's truck then stops in the same spot and sits for more than 20 seconds.

The video, later confiscated by police, shows the gunman suddenly shooting toward the driver's side of McAllister's vehicle, she said. The truck veers to the right, crashing into the front of the church and the gunman is seen running off.

Ruffolo said she heard four shots while inside her home and told her son to hit the floor. She said she called 911 and then crawled to a window, where she watched police and rescue converge on the scene.

Police made no arrests and didn't give a motive for the slaying. Friends and clients of McAllister, who ran a handful of group homes across town, questioned whether the shooting was random or in retaliation for her speaking out against the slaying of a client nine days earlier in a Waffle House. Kimberly Daniels, pastor at the church, said McAllister ran a group home in the area and was likely checking on that property.

Police left the neighborhood early the next morning. Ruffolo said she and her son were inside their home in separate rooms about 4 a. …

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