South Florida Police were looking for suspects on Monday after two people were killed and 21 others were injured in a shootout outside a banquet hall in what authorities called a act of domestic terrorism.
County commissioner Keon Hardemon told a press conference that the shooting, which occurred 24 hours after one person was killed and six others injured in a drive-by shooting in Miami’s Wynwood area , had a chilling effect on the community.
“We need to be clear on what’s going on in Miami-Dade County.” said Hardemon. “These are acts of domestic terrorism.”
Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez III was briefly interrupted during the briefing by a tearful father of one of the victims killed in the shooting who was taken away by police officers.
“It’s the pain you see,” Ramirez said. “Together we all must work harder to bring justice to these families.”
Gunshots erupted on Sunday morning near Hialeah in the El Mula banquet hall, which had been rented for a concert, police said. Suspects waited in the parking lot 20 to 40 minutes before three people exited a white Nissan Pathfinder and opened fire on the crowd outside in what Ramirez called a “targeted and cowardly act of armed violence”.
Several people in the crowd armed and fired back, killing 23 people, two of whom died at the scene, police said. Three people were hospitalized on Monday with serious injuries and three were released, including a 17-year-old who was shot in the leg.
Authorities say the shooting was the result of an ongoing rivalry between two different groups and that the intended target was outside the banquet hall when the shooting took place. Police are still working to comb through video and forensic evidence after being at the scene for nearly 24 hours.
No arrests have been announced. Police plan to release video of the vehicle and the suspects to help the public identify them.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told the press conference that local, state and federal authorities, including the FBI, “were working around the clock” to expedite the investigation. Cava said that when the suspects are apprehended, prosecutors will use the RICO Act, a federal law designed to fight organized crime, to tighten penalties “where appropriate.”
Cava urged the public to provide any information.
“We need your help,” Cava said. “We need you to come forward if you have any information to help us solve these crimes.”
Camping World CEO and TV personality Marcus Lemonis said on Twitter he was offering a $ 100,000 reward to help authorities “arrest and convict” the suspects.
The Miami division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is offering the award $ 25,000, Ramirez later said on Twitter, bringing the total award to $ 125,000.
Police have yet to release the names of the victims.
Clayton Dillard and his family waited outside the banquet hall on Sunday fearing their loved one was among the two deaths, The Associated Press reported.
“I know he’s there,” Dillard said, “But they won’t let me come and claim him.”
Family and friends also gathered outside Jackson Memorial Hospital on Sunday, awaiting news of their loved one’s condition and holding a prayer circle.
Angelica Green told reporters her son and nephew, both 24, were shot dead when three men wearing “hoodies and ski masks” opened fire, the Herald reported. Green said her son was “frantic” and in pain when he called her and her husband.
“Worst phone call of my life,” Green said. “He would tell us, if anything happens to him, that he loves us. We said, ‘We love you too, but you’re going to survive this.’ “
Chad Harris told WSVN-7 his 19-year-old daughter was in surgery after being shot and was awaiting news from doctors about her condition.
“Words can’t explain how I’m feeling right now, man,” Harris said. “We are just praying.”
Contributors: John Bacon and Elinor Aspergren, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg