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‘Suspicious’ man arrested in park after stolen handgun found in waistband

Nov 20, 2023Nov 20, 2023

The Marion County Sheriff's Office arrested a 21-year-old Ocala man near a local community center after a stolen handgun was found in his possession.

On Tuesday, an MCSO deputy was conducting a security check of the Silver Springs Community Center located at 590 Silver Road in Ocala when a "suspicious" man was observed walking in the nearby park, which was closed, according to the arrest report.

The deputy made contact with the man, identified as Amari Jayden Sledge, and he informed the deputy that he was "just hanging out at the park." When asked if he had any weapons, Sledge advised that he had a handgun in his waistband. The MCSO report described the weapon as a black and silver 9mm semi-automatic handgun.

After the firearm was removed from Sledge's waistband, he was detained in handcuffs and placed inside the deputy's patrol vehicle. Sledge claimed that he was holding the gun for someone that he did not know.

According to the MCSO report, Sledge told the deputy that a "random man on the street" had given him the handgun. Sledge then advised that his fingerprints would be on it since he had "handled the gun" since gaining possession of it.

The deputy searched the recovered handgun in a national database and discovered that it had been reported as stolen from Marion County in 2020. In addition, the deputy verified that Sledge does not possess a Florida concealed carry permit.

After being read his Miranda rights, Sledge advised that he was skating down Silver Road when a "white man with comb-over-style hair and thin, messy beard" approached him and hastily handed him the firearm. Sledge told the deputy that the man was older and appeared to be "tweaking on drugs," according to the MCSO report.

Prior to the arrival of the deputy, Sledge stated that he went to the park to think about the handgun and what to do with it. He advised that he was unsure why he did not contact law enforcement after the unknown man allegedly handed him the firearm.

Due to the Marion County case involving the stolen handgun, the deputy asked Sledge to clarify where he resided in mid-to-late 2020. He informed the deputy that he lived in Marion Oaks, and he added that he had "no idea" that the firearm was stolen, according to the MCSO report.

Sledge was arrested and transported to Marion County Jail where he is currently being held on $2,000 bond. He is facing a felony charge for carrying a concealed weapon (unlicensed firearm).

A court date has not been scheduled yet, according to jail records.