Two people were killed and 20 people wounded at a concert early Sunday morning in Northwest Miami-Dade in what authorities say is one of the largest mass shootings in the county in recent memory.
Three of those injured are in critical condition, according to police.
There were so many wounded as the chaotic scene unfolded in the parking lot of the banquet hall overnight that detectives were trying to assemble the identities of all the victims around noon.
Victims were transported to a handful of different hospitals, some in ambulances and others in their own cars.
The shooting started after midnight outside a concert at a banquet hall in a large shopping center on the 7600 block of Northwest 186th Street, Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez said.
The venue, El Mula Banquet Hall, is located in the Country Club Shopping Center in an unincorporated area north of the State Road 826 big curve near the Country Club of Miami.
The banquet hall had been rented out for the rap concert, police said. Some concertgoers were outside when a white Nissan Pathfinder pulled up, Ramirez said. Three unidentified people stepped out of the SUV with assault rifles and handguns and began shooting “indiscriminately” into the crowd, Ramirez said. Police going through the crime scene found hundreds of casings.
“We believe this is a targeted act of gun violence,” Ramirez said. “This is a despicable act of gun violence, a cowardly act.”
El Mula was hosting a Memorial Day Weekend album release party on Saturday night, featuring live performances from local rappers, including ABMG Spitta, according to several event flyers posted on Instagram. The flyer incorrectly listed Hialeah as the city where the event was taking place.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue took eight of the injured to Miami-Dade and Broward hospitals, said Miami-Dade police spokesman Detective Angel Rodriguez. In addition, he said, more than 12 other victims went to various hospitals on their own.
“This type of gun violence has to stop,” Ramirez said. “Every weekend it is the same thing. This is targeted, this is definitely not random.” Relatives and friends rushed to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital to check on the conditions of loved ones.
By 6 a.m., a few people remained outside the entrance of Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, eager to hear updates. A few joined hands in prayer. People approached by the Herald did not want to talk about what happened, or were too emotional to give interviews.
Later on Sunday morning, a woman told reporters outside the plaza that her son and nephew were among the people shot and injured overnight.
Angelica Green, of Miramar, said the two 24-year-olds had just arrived at the event and were not yet inside when three men in “hoodies and ski masks” started shooting at the crowd. Green said her son was shot once in the abdomen and underwent surgery at Ryder Trauma Center. He is in stable condition, she said.
Green’s nephew was shot one time in the abdomen and three times in the leg, she said. She was told that her nephew’s wounds “were pretty massive,” but that he also seems to be in stable condition. A friend of Green’s son drove him and three others to Palmetto Hospital before they were transferred to Ryder Trauma Center, Green said.
Shortly after being shot, Green’s son called her and her husband “frantic,” she said, telling them he felt burning pain.
“The worst phone call of my life,” Green said. “He was telling us, if something happens to him, that he loves us. We said, ‘We love you, too, but you’re gonna survive this.’”
Chad Harris, whose 19-year-old daughter was also shot, told WSVN-7 in an interview outside Ryder Trauma Center that he was still waiting to hear back from doctors on her condition. “Words can’t explain how I feel right now, man,” said Harris. “She’s in surgery right now. We’re just praying.”
Around 10 a.m. Sunday, a helicopter hovered above the scene and police tape blocked off the entrance to the Country Club Shopping Center. Police continued to place yellow markers on the ground and take photographs outside El Mula Banquet Hall.
A body shrouded with a white tarp, red sneakers sticking out from under the covering, was still lying at the scene around 11 a.m.
A Miami-Dade police officer told the Herald all of the stores in the shopping center — including day cares, a restaurant, a nail salon and a bakery — were closed until further notice. The officer said one restaurant owner was briefly allowed inside to turn off their stove.
This is the second major shooting in the Miami area over the Memorial Day weekend. Late Friday into Saturday, one person was killed and six others wounded outside of a building in a drive-by shooting in the Wynwood area of Miami.
Dozens of shell casings from at least two separate caliber weapons littered the street. There was also a brazen shooting and car chase early Thursday evening near Casino Miami Jai-Alai in which three people were injured. One of them was an innocent bystander who was shot during the carnage, along with two people in one of the cars.
“It is very difficult to stop a small amount of individuals who want to go out there and commit murder, and it takes all of us to stop this,” Ramirez said. “We really have to put the work in this summer to keep our children and community safe.”
Police told the Miami Herald they are looking into the possibility of Saturday night’s mass shooting being connected to the two other attacks in Miami the past few days — though they haven’t publicly said any of the incidents are connected.
“All three could be connected,” said Ignacio Alvarez, a retired Miami-Dade police major who worked the district where Sunday morning’s shooting occurred until 2016. “Was it retaliatory? They probably don’t have the answer yet.”
Alvarez, who now runs a Miami law firm, said he’s quite familiar with the club where the shooting happened. He said the space has been rented out for years for parties and several times police were called to break up fights.
“They never gave police a heads-up when they were having large parties,” he said. “There were lots of fights. At least back then, they weren’t hiring off-duty officers. At the very minimum, they should have had off-duty or told police about the event.”
Miami-Dade police confirmed to the Herald they had no off-duty officers working at the venue on Saturday night.
The brazen attack in the unincorporated corner northwest pocket of Miami-Dade early Sunday morning was also the largest mass shooting in memory in the county.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava echoed Ramirez’s thoughts. She tweeted Sunday that she is working closely with public safety officials to “bring criminals to justice” and “fight violence at the root with strategies aimed at prevention & intervention.”
“We must create alternate pathways for at-risk youth and we must build safer, more prosperous neighborhoods to stem the tide of violence,” Levine Cava tweeted. “Enough is enough — no more innocent lives lost.”
Police do not yet have description of the three people who shot into the crowd.
The overnight shooting garnered widespread attention and outrage on social media, including from businessman and reality show star Marcus Lemonis, who said on Twitter he was contributing $100,000 to the police reward for information that would help arrest suspects.
Director Ramirez told WPLG Local 10 that police needed the public to cooperate to bring the suspects to justice. “The ones that know something or saw something, they need to say something so that this stops,” he said.
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