An Overtown teenager, who briefly escaped a police chase across city lines and was caught after trying to hide in an apartment, has been accused of triggering a wild shootout in Miami Beach that had tourists and locals scattering for cover.
Dozens of bullets were fired during the brief but violent outburst early Tuesday morning on Ocean Drive, during the height of the tourist season. Remarkably, not a single person was struck.
A video of part of the shootout, taken from a restaurant near the corner of Ocean Drive and Fifth Street, shows a group of men walking past the restaurant, glancing back, then scurrying as the bullets fly. In the video, the zig-zagging bullets look like tracers during wartime.
Late Tuesday night, Horace Bernard Butler, 17, was charged with firing into a crowd, possession of a weapon by a minor and resisting arrest without violence. A witness who helped identify Butler and the weapon he used said the teen was the first to fire.
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At least three people were taken into custody. All but Butler were released. Police haven’t said what caused the shootout between a group standing on the sidewalk and another group crossing Ocean Drive at Fifth Street.
“There was an argument earlier at the same location, or around there,” said Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez. “That’s what we’re looking at.”
It’s at least the third time gunfire has broken out on Ocean Drive — one of the most famous destinations in the world — since March. And some local business owners have begun to voice their displeasure.
In March during Spring Break, 20-year-old Antoinne Decade was shot in the chest and killed near Ninth Street and Ocean Drive after a fight broke out in the Breakwater Hotel. And in October, New York anti-gun activist Lavon Walker was shot and killed just outside the News Cafe at Ocean Drive and Eighth Street.
Police said at the time they didn’t believe Walker was the intended target. Neither case has been solved.
Miami Beach City Commissioner Michael Grieco said shootings in other prominent areas like New York’s Times Square are infrequent because the streets are filled with police who interact with pedestrians. He said he’s called for more foot and bicycle patrols along Ocean Drive and streets around it.
“I don’t think it’s been made enough of a priority,” he said.
Tuesday morning’s shootout, according to police and witnesses, began a couple of hours after a fight broke out nearby that police believe involved some of the same people. Then, some time just before 1 a.m., a group of men standing on the sidewalk in front of the Cafe South Beach Deli began firing at another group who were crossing Ocean Drive at the corner. The other group fired back.
Witness accounts and yellow police markers show that more than two dozen rounds were fired. But as one group ran into an alley behind the restaurant, according to a witness, the other took off down Ocean Drive in a dark sedan.
Serif Anlar was inside Cafe South Beach during the shootout.
“I’m still shocked,” Anlar said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. And I’m from Turkey.”
As the shooting was going on, a Miami Beach police officer working a case near the corner heard the gunfire and saw the car take off, police said. She called in the report, then spotted the vehicle a few moments later near Euclid Avenue and Sixth Street. She gave chase. Other Miami Beach officers joined in.
Butler’s arrest affidavit notes that the female officer, who chased the vehicle across the MacArthur Causeway and into the city of Miami, noticed two guns tossed from the car. Officers say they found both weapons. One of them: a 9 mm Glock with an extended magazine.
When the vehicle reached Overtown, the arrest report says six males bailed out and ran. Miami police took up the chase and set up a perimeter at Northwest Second Avenue and 14th Street. Butler was captured by Miami police near there after knocking on someone’s door while trying to hide. They handed him over to Miami Beach.
Police took another man who bailed from the car into custody as well as someone near the original crime scene. They were later released. The sedan, Miami police said, was taken during an earlier carjacking.
Butler, in a sworn statement, denied any involvement in the shootout.