An event billed as a “family fun” MLK Day celebration in Florida turned deadly when members of rival gangs had a “disagreement” that they attempted to resolve with guns, police said.
On Monday afternoon, more than 1,000 members of the community gathered together at Ilous Ellis Park in Fort Pierce, Florida, to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. After watching a parade, folks began enjoying another event on the agenda: the “MLK Car Show & Family Fun Day.” At approximately 5:20 p.m., car show participants were walking around and having a good time when, suddenly, they heard the sound of gunfire.
“It was mass chaos, as you can imagine, when shots rang out,” St. Lucie County Chief Deputy Brian Hester said at a press conference. “There were 1,000-plus people here at the event. And as the shots rang out, people were just running in all directions.” A bystander captured some of that “chaos” on a cellphone camera:
Hester was near the scene himself. He had been in the MLK parade, and he stated that there were other deputies positioned in the park as well to help maintain peace and security during the event. Unfortunately, some individuals at the park had other ideas.
Police believe that “a disagreement of some sort” erupted between members of rival gangs and that some of those gang members then decided to resolve the disagreement with gun violence. In all, there were eight adults shot, one of whom was a 30-year-old mother who was struck in front of her 6-year-old daughter. The woman died at the hospital on Tuesday morning. Her name has not been released.
A man who is likely the deceased woman’s brother told Fox News Monday night, while his sister was still alive, that he would soon have to have a tough conversation with his niece. “There’s nothing you can tell a 6-year-old about her mother getting shot right in front of her,” he said. “There’s not a word you can use for that.”
No child was injured in the shooting itself. However, four other people, including one child, were injured trying to flee to safety during the shooting. Details about the child, such as his or her injuries and current condition, have not been released.
The shooter or shooters fled the scene, and no arrests have been made in connection to the incident. However, ABC News reported that police do have “leads” about possible suspects and that they believe there were at least two shooters involved.
“It’s really sad in a celebration of someone who represented peace and equality that a disagreement results in a use of guns and violence to solve that disagreement,” Hester added, “and that’s what’s really sad to me about what happened here.”
On Tuesday, Hester and Sheriff Ken Mascara gave a press conference to announce that the woman had died, to promise to bring to justice those responsible for this act of violence, which Mascara called “horrendous” and Hester called “heinous,” and to warn others against harboring the suspects or “helping” them “in any way.” Those who do will be prosecuted “to the fullest extent,” Hester claimed, according to WPTV News.