The day after yet another brazen drive-by shooting left nine people wounded, it was quiet at Arcola Park Tuesday. There was no sign of the disruption and panic that left dozens of people scrambling for cover only a few hours earlier.
The basketball courts where the group of nine were mowed down were empty. So was the swimming pool adjacent to the courts and the playground behind the recreation center. About a dozen kids taking part in a Miami-Dade County after-school program played ping pong and read around a small Christmas tree inside the center’s building.
An employee there said a couple of dozen kids were in the Plenty Whitehead Recreation Building on the east side of the courts when the shooting happened. Protected by the building’s walls, the kids were alerted to the rampage by screams from the injured ballers and others who scrambled for cover when the bullets began to fly.
Michael Dunconson, 16, found out his friends were in the hospital Tuesday when he showed up at the park to play basketball. He was supposed join them at the court Monday but his bike was broken.
“God helped me dodge a bullet,” Michael said Tuesday.
According to police and witnesses, a male drove by the courts at 1680 NW 87th St. just before 5 p.m. Monday and opened fire on players there with some type of semi-automatic weapon. He then fled north on Northwest 17th Avenue in a dark Nissan Maxima, a newer model police believe.
Police still didn’t have a motive Tuesday and continued to interview witnesses and victims. The nine people shot are expected to live, though one victim was shot in the head. Police said four people were taken to the hospital by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. The others found their own way there.
The injured include Trugo Bryson, 16, who police said suffered the head injury. The others shot are Travarus Mitchell, 19; Malcolm McCray, 21; Alex Yanes, 20; Dairyus Brookins, 21; Garrett Johnson, 16; Berek Latson, 17; and Kendricks Wilson, 16; and David Johnson.
Police said all the victims, even Bryson, are in stable condition and expected to survive.
The park is a popular spot for late afternoon basketball games, especially this week as students are off for the Christmas holiday. Though the pool is empty and closed, kids still spend mornings and afternoons in the recreation center and using the swings and jungle gym there.
The basketball court is on the west side of the park, along Northwest 17th Avenue. A baseball field is east of the recreation center. Homes sit behind a chain-link fence to the south.
Miami-Dade police were still trying to make sense of the shooting Tuesday. Det. Alvaro Zabaleta said “the motive remains unknown.”
Monday’s shooting was eerily similar to a 2011 incident at the park in which a group of men drove past and opened fire, striking two children and two teens. The four survived.
And though major crimes in Miami-Dade and around the country are near all-time lows — even shooting deaths — the number of high-profile mass drive-by shootings, especially in the county’s Northern District this year, has been alarming.
In August, two men in a dark SUV pulled up to an apartment complex on the edge of Liberty Square and opened fire into a courtyard where people had gathered. Two men were killed and seven others were injured. A month later, a high school dispute escalated to a mass shooting at a teen nightclub called the The Spot in Liberty City. Fifteen people were shot.
And two weeks ago someone drove past another group of people gathered just outside an Overtown apartment complex, firing into a crowd and injuring five people between the ages of 17 and 54. Police attribute most of the shootings to small-time gang activity and drug disputes.