Police, families plea for information in Miami mass shooting

MIAMI (AP) — Miami's top officials and relatives of the victims are pleading with the community to offer information to find the suspects in a Memorial Day weekend mass shooting that killed three people and wounded 20 others outside. Police have made no arrests.

“We are issuing an official call to action to speak up and say something,” Ashley Gantt told The Associated Press on Friday. Gantt is a cousin of Desmond Owens, one of the three people who died in the shooting outside a banquet hall, and an attorney representing his family.

“It was so many people, friends, loved ones," she said. “The pain and the suffering is reverberating throughout our community. No one deserves to lose their loved ones like this in such a senseless act.”

Miami-Dade County's top prosecutor, Katherine Rundle, also made a plea to the community as police say they’re focusing on rivalry between local rappers in their investigation. Rundle acknowledged the challenges for police given the climate of violent retribution and general mistrust in law enforcement.

“You’ve got to give us information. I know there’s a lot of talk of people who live in fear of retaliation, but we do have victim protection procedures,” Rundle said. “People want us to get the killers and guns off the street and people want to be safe ... We hear you, but we need you.”

Rundle made the plea as top county officials launched “Operation Summer Heat” to combat escalating gun violence hours before the third victim of the mass shooting died in a hospital. Officials identified her as Shankquia Peterson, 32. Two other victims in the shooting remained in critical condition, police said.

Surveillance videos released by police show a white SUV driving into an alley before three masked gunmen spray bullets indiscriminately into the crowd early Sunday. Another video showed another person shooting from a different angle, news outlets reported. Police say the assailants had specific targets in mind. The crowd had been waiting to get inside for an album release party by Courtney Paul Wilson, 24, better known as rapper ABMG Spitta.

Relatives of Peterson, the last victim to die, told news outlets she had a bullet lodged in her head and had been in a medically induced coma since the shooting.

“Our family wants the gun violence to end, for these predators to be caught. This shooting has shaken the family to its core,” Peterson's family said in a statement.

Other gun violence over Memorial Day weekend included a car chase and shooting near a Miami casino, a mass shooting in Wynwood that left one dead and six wounded and a shooting outside a South Beach restaurant that left a man paralyzed and a local rapper behind bars.

While the motive for the banquet hall shooting is still unknown, investigators were focusing on social-media feuds involving the local rappers who hosted the banquet hall show, the Miami Herald reported. This includes two rival groups whose tensions go back years and have been fueled by threats made online and in rap lyrics.

“A lot of these violent acts you’re seeing on their social media. You’re seeing them call each other out, they’re giving verbal cues,” Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez said during a Thursday’s news conference. “Some of the songs have verbal cues that are triggering rolling violence, real-time violence. Back in the ’90s it was drug turf wars. Here it’s a little bit of that but a lot of it is showing off.”

There is a reward of up to $130,000 for information that leads to an arrest of the people responsible.


Associated Press writer Freida Frisaro contributed to this report.

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