Another young girl became an unintended shooting victim in Miami Gardens, where residents have grown increasingly uneasy about the violence that has plagued their city.
“It makes me feel scared to come outside,” 13-year-old Nevilisha Francis said Tuesday at Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami, where she was recovering from a bullet wound to her calf.
On Tuesday, the eighth-grader at Somerset Academy in Miramar and avid tennis player was eating pancakes in her hospital bed and using a remote to search for cartoons on her television set. Just the night before, she had been sitting with her parents on the back patio of their home in the 20400 block of Northwest Second Court, talking on the phone, when bullets flew from a nearby shopping center alley. One round struck the teen’s leg.
Crime scene investigators found more than a dozen bullet casings on the ground in the alley behind the family’s light pink house on the corner of a gated community.
Miami Gardens police are looking for the gunmen, said spokesman Michael Wright.
Nevilisha said Tuesday that she didn’t immediately realize she had been wounded. Her father brought her inside, limping and bleeding, and she was rushed by relatives to Ryder Trauma Center.
She is not the first victim of violence in her family. At the hospital, the teen said her older brother, Ramario Francis, was shot earlier this year; she wonders whether he was targeted again.
Monday’s shooting horrified family members of Tequila Forshee, 12, who was slain by gunfire in August while getting her hair braided inside her grandmother’s Miami Gardens home.
“We’re not safe in our homes anymore,’’ said Tequila’s father, Glenn Forshee. “These criminals, their confidence is growing every day. It’s sad.”
Tequila was sitting on the floor of her grandmother’s Miami Gardens home having her hair braided before the start of school when bullets came flying into the residence from a shooting outside. The girl was fatally wounded in the head.
Forshee told Miami Herald news partner CBS4 that these random shootings have to stop.
“Anything could have happened. That bullet instead of going to her leg, could have been her head, her chest, anything, it could have left her paralyzed for life,” said Forshee. “The violence in Miami Gardens has to stop. It’s growing by the day. She was in her home where she is supposed to be; again it’s the same situation that took my daughter’s life occurred again last night.”
Tequila’s aunt, Chanae Forshee, said her first thought after hearing about the latest shooting was: “Not again.”
“It’s really mind blowing,” she said. “It’s almost like reliving our whole experience again.”
Chanae Forshee said she believes Monday’s shooting will renew cries to end the violence and bloodshed in Miami Gardens, Miami-Dade’s third-largest city. But it’s not enough to just talk about it, she said.
“I would like to see the community play a major role in taking back our city,” she said. “Since Tequila died there have been four or five other shootings in Miami Gardens. We keep asking who’s next? We don’t really want an answer to that question.”
Like Tequila, Nevilisha was not the intended target. Family members believe the bullets were meant for Tequila’s 16-year old uncle; police have said they suspect gang members were involved in that shooting.
Just days after Tequila was shot to death in August, two men were critically wounded in the city when shooting erupted at a McDonald’s drive-through window.
Residents say they are tired of the apathy from neighbors when no witnesses come forward after such violent crimes.
“It’s not unusual to hear gunfire between 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning,” said Pat Wright, a resident of more than 30 years. “We all need to be vigilant in our own neighborhoods. The police need to have that helping hand from us.”
Wright, a member of the Scott Lake Crime Watch group, said she is considering moving out of the neighborhood. She called on Miami Gardens elected officials to step up their efforts to reach out to the youth and residents in the community.
“When it’s election time, the politicians have everyone’s number and everyone’s address,” said Wright. “They need to reach out and contact the people in their neighborhoods, and people will tell them what works and what doesn’t.
In recent months, the city has hosted anti-gang walks, town hall meetings and peace rallies in response to the violence. Miami Gardens police will hire 10 more officers to allow for more of a focus on violent crime, and the department has also put technology in neighborhoods to alert police when shots are fired.
As investigators continued to search for clues on the latest shooting, Nevilisha’s family worried about their safety.
“I have been living here for 18 years and now it is disgusting,” the teen’s mother, Velma Francis, told CBS4. “It is time to move. There are shootings here and over there.”
Miami Herald news partner CBS4 contributed to this report along with staff writer Hannah Sampson and staff photographer Walter Michot.