A day after gunfire tore through a Liberty City apartment complex in one of Miami’s worst mass shootings, police said the motive was likely revenge or drug dealers staking out turf.
Those scenarios, police warned, came from tips that require intense vetting, and the shooters still have not been identified.
“The common denominator is drugs, or something stupid that happened. I think this is going to be one of those,” Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa said Wednesday.
Early Tuesday morning, two gunmen pulled up to a small two-story apartment complex at 6511 NW 12th Ave., strafing it with gunfire from high-powered automatic weapons. Kevin Richardson, 30, and Nakeri Jackson, 26, were killed. Seven others are recovering at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
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Police said the men pulled up in a black SUV at 2:15 a.m., got out of the vehicle and began firing. More than five dozen bullet casings littered the area around the u-shaped apartment complex, with bullets tearing through walls and doors into living rooms and kitchens.
The carnage occurred while more than a dozen people were outside the apartment near the sidewalk, joking, drinking, swapping stories. People scattered everywhere, into apartments, behind cars and over walls.
On Wednesday, Orosa said police “believe this is a retaliatory shooting over something that happened before.”
He pointed to a neighborhood just west of Liberty Square called Lincoln Fields. Similar in size to 10-square-block Liberty Square, the Lincoln Fields housing project at Northwest 54th Street and 22nd Avenue also has a reputation for illicit drug sales, gang activity and gun violence.
Police said people in the two housing complexes have been at odds for years over drug-run street corners. Liberty Square has had at least 13 shootings since 2009. Last December, Davonte Anderson was shot dead in Lincoln Fields during a dice game.
Police also said Tuesday’s rampage might have been retaliation for an incident that happened in Liberty Square — but they’re not certain when. They said they recently learned that residents fired at a car racing through the complex and that the driver returned and opened fire on an apartment.
Tuesday’s brazen shootings rocked a neighborhood hardened by death and violence over the years.
Family and friends of several victims set up a makeshift memorial on the steps of the two-story apartment complex. Meanwhile, a 17-year-old girl who was shot six times had surgery and was recovering, and another man in the hospital with four bullet wounds in his side and back said he was contemplating moving out of town.
“I don’t recall anything. All I saw were bodies falling and people running. I didn’t even realize a car pulled up. I don’t know what the issue is all about,” Kenneth Mintz said by phone from his hospital bed at Jackson. “All I know is they got the life of my homeboys. I’m going to get out of town, I can’t deal with this s---.”
Outside the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson, the sister of 17-year-old victim Jessica Martin said her sibling was shot six times, twice in the chest. The woman, who declined to give her name, said Jessica was taking a pair of headphones to a friend when the gunfire erupted.
The woman said her sister — the only female in the group of nine who got shot and a senior-to-be at Northwestern Senior High — underwent surgery Wednesday and her condition was upgraded from critical to stable.
Jessica’s sister urged anyone with information to come forward.
“You see something wrong, of course we don’t want to be a snitch as they call it, or you know, be telling on someone. But at the end of the day, it may be your sister, your brother, your mother,” Jessica’s sister said. “I want justice. I don’t wish stuff on anyone, but I definitely want justice.”
At the apartment complex Wednesday, Katrina Camon dug through her apartment in search of plastic flowers and bows that she stuck inside bullet holes in the building’s walls for a makeshift memorial. She even hung brown construction paper with ribbon strands and beads.
Residents left stuffed animals and crosses near the steps where many of the victims scrambled to or from. Despite the outpouring of emotion, many refused to talk, fearing retribution. The building, normally bustling with children, was quiet.
One woman, standing in a doorway clutching her 10-month-old son, wouldn’t let her son outside.
“It’s not worth that,” she said. “You have to watch out.”