Paul Royal would have celebrated his 20th birthday Thursday. Instead, his family took solace in the fact that Miami Gardens police arrested a suspect they believed shot and killed Royal more than a year ago.
Police charged Kumasi Ford, 20, on two counts of first-degree murder in the killing of Royal in 16 months ago and the killing of 19-year-old Raymon Mills two weeks ago.
Mayor Oliver Gilbert described the announcement as bittersweet, but had a message for criminals in his town.
“If you are intent on doing the wrong thing, I would encourage you to do it elsewhere,” he said.
Royal’s family gathered at police headquarters Thursday for an emotional thank you to the police department, singling out homicide detective Luis Gonzalez for his efforts.
“When he was assigned to this15 months ago, he said he was going to do his best,” said Royal’s father Damion Davis. “It’s not going to bring PJ back, but it will bring us closure.”
Through an unrelated arrest, investigators were led to a home Wednesday, where they found Ford, seven other people and numerous guns, said Deputy Chief Paul Miller.
Ford was arrested in connection to the murders, the others on unrelated charges.
Miller did not disclose the number of weapons or if drugs were present at the home at 20301 NW 28th Ct. He did say homicide detectives were aided by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office and the city’s gun violence reduction squad.
Ford has been arrested 23 times on charges ranging from robbery to burglary and larceny. He has never been convicted.
Miller said the murders happened three blocks apart – on Northwest 29th Court and Northwest 32nd Court. But, investigators don’t believe the two killings were connected.
Royal, a standout defensive player at Miami Carol City High, was murdered sitting in his car in front a friend’s house on July 24, 2012 – a few weeks before he was set to leave for Edward Waters College in Jacksonville. Police initially described the suspects as two males in ski masks. A second suspect has not been identified.
“If there was an accomplice that someone knows about, if the accomplice is weighing on his mind that we’re going to get him now, they need to come forward now,” said Miller.
Mills was shot in the head by an assailant after he went outside his home at 20124 NW 32nd Ct. around midnight on Nov. 4. Police did not give any information on the motive in either of the killings, but said Ford knew both Mills and Royal.
Mills’s family did not speak at the press conference.
Ford’s arrest comes after 10 people, including Mills, were shot in a span of 11 days of violence earlier in the month, including a police-involved shooting.
Before that, the city had six murder cases from January to June, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement data.
In August, middle-schooler Tequila Forshee was shot and killed in her grandmother’s home. That case remains open and no suspects have been identified. Royal’s family said that others should be comforted by Ford’s arrest.
Police are asking anyone with information about any crime in Miami Gardens to please call Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477.