A 17-year-old American Senior High student, who family members described as quiet and a good student, was shot and killed outside his Miami Gardens apartment complex Tuesday afternoon on his way home from school.
Only two hours later and a few miles south, a 16-year-old boy was gunned down in Little Havana while standing on a street corner with friends. Osmand Falls was taken to the hospital in grave condition and died overnight. Police say they have witnesses and are following leads.
In the Miami Gardens shooting, police hadn't confirmed the teen’s name by Tuesday night, but friends and family members said the dead teen was Roderick Sweeting, a American Senior High School junior who loved basketball.
“Whoever did this, they need to be caught,” said Derrick Smith, Roderick's uncle.
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As of Tuesday night the shooter had not been caught and police questioned potential witnesses and gathered evidence.
Police were alerted to the shooting by sheer luck: A Miami Gardens officer was close enough to the crime scene in the 17600 block of Northwest 25th Avenue to hear the shots fired.
When he got there it was too late; Roderick was already dead.
Smith described his nephew as very quiet and a good student. Friends surrounding the apartment complex, known as The Oaks, said Roderick grew up in the neighborhood and was a good friend. He lived with his mother and sister in the complex, a short distance from the shooting.
“He had a bright future ahead of him,’’ said friend Roni Navas, 21. “Basketball was his life.’’
Family and friends cried, hugged and comforted each other outside the complex, which was blocked off by police tape. Police were not letting family members near the body, which was found between two cars, according to Channel 7-WSVN.
Audria Green, who lives near The Oaks, said she was headed to the store when she saw the emergency vehicles at the scene.
“This is the norm around here; this is constantly happening and it’s sad, especially in broad daylight,” Green said.
The shooting occurred around 4 p.m.
The Rev. Eric Readon, pastor at New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church, said his heart was sickened.
“Bullets have no eyes. It’s too often; it needs to stop,’’ he said.
Even as family and friends grieved over Roderick, news of another shooting of a child just 16 miles south in Little Havana began to spread. The teen shot at Northwest 10th Avenue and First Street was a 16-year-old boy hanging out with some friends just a few feet from a church and some apartments.
At 6:15 p.m., someone either walked up to or rode his bike toward the teen and fired several rounds before taking off. The gunshot victim was rushed by paramedics to Jackson Memorial Hospital in extremely critical condition.
Witnesses said the shooting might have stemmed from an argument earlier in the day at a neighborhood basketball court. The shooter is still at large.
Teens and children lost to gunfire has been a flash point this year, especially since 6-year-old King Carter was shot down in front of his Northwest Miami-Dade apartment in February. Carter had just been given a few dollars by his father and was on the way to the store to buy some candy when he was caught in the crossfire of several teens whose Facebook fight had escalated.
Carter's death led to outrage, marches, vigils and town hall meetings. Just last week Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced a mentoring plan where 25 police officers will work with teens and their families, in their homes, if possible. A group of at-risk kids—kids who are likely to suffer from violence or create it — will be chosen with the help of the county's Juvenile Assessment Center. Parks were also given money for after-school programs and job training to the older kids will be provided.
Over the past decade, more than 300 children and teens have been killed by guns in Miami-Dade County — an average of more than 30 a year. Last year, the number was 33.
A year ago, 10-year-old Marlon Eason was gunned down as he retrieved a basketball in front of his Overtown home, a victim of dueling teenagers. In February, David Goulbarne was walking along the sidewalk at Northwest 71st Street and 14th Avenue when someone walked up and shot him. He died as he stumbled into Sugar Hill Apartments
Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho responded to Tuesday’s shooting on Twitter.
“As the nation observes Youth Violence Awareness Week, another high school student is cowardly slain in the streets of our community #enough,” Carvalho wrote.
Police are asking anyone with information to contact Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477.
The original version of this story incorrectly listed where Sweeting attended high school.