The party in the new club continued into the wee hours Sunday morning. Strawberry daiquiris flowed. Music from DJ Bay Bay pulsed. Teens were chilling and dancing.
Then came the gunfire.
Witnesses said they heard dozens of rounds, maybe 100, rip through a storefront Miami nightclub called The Spot, wedged between a furniture store and a smoke shop.
When the gunfire stopped, 15 young people were wounded, bloodied and dazed, the youngest of them 11 years old, the oldest 25.
Some made it to the hospital themselves, others needed help from fellow party-goers. Still others were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital by Miami paramedics.
One 15-year-old boy was in critical but stable condition Sunday. Most of the other wounds were not life-threatening, and some of the injured were treated and released.
Dressed in dark blue hospital scrubs and using crutches Sunday afternoon, a 20-year-old man hobbled out of Jackson to wait for his ride.
“I’ve been through a lot,” said the man, who would not give his name. He was shot in the right leg.
He said he was at a “party” at The Spot early Sunday listening to music when he heard “pop, pop, pop.”
“I tried to run out of the way, but I got hit,” he said. “I don’t know what happened.”
Police say they, too, don’t know exactly what triggered the violence. At least one witness said it appeared that two groups of people were shooting at each other.
Owners or managers of The Spot, 6410 NW Seventh Ave. — which bills itself as as a lounge, Caribbean restaurant and bar — did not answer the door Sunday to speak about the party or the shootings.
Perhaps the most sobering part of the latest outbreak of club carnage is the tender ages of some of the victims. Witnesses and people who had been in the club say the party was geared toward the teen crowd.
No suspects were taken into custody Sunday, and police were asking the public for information about the shooters.
“This is crazy — people shooting people up for no reason,” said Michelle Williams, a nearby resident who was driving by the club later Sunday as investigators were combing the club for evidence.
Williams said The Spot opened recently — and that she was just happy her teenage son was home safe during the shootings.
The nightclub has had a liquor license since April, according to Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation records. Investigators said they did not know whether alcohol was being served to the young crowd.
When police and paramedics arrived sometime before 2 a.m. Sunday, they found “chaos,” said Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll.
Carroll said fire-rescue took seven victims to Jackson Memorial Hospital, some with hip, leg and other non-life-threatening injuries. One victim was not breathing, he said.
“There were a lot of people outside,” Carroll said. “Some were helping their friends who had been shot.”
Frederica Burden, a spokeswoman for the Miami Police Department, said investigators were trying to determine who was inside the nightclub, how many shooters there were and what prompted the gunfire. She said the club is cooperating with the investigation.
“This has baffled everybody,” she said. “We are just trying to figure out what’s going on.”
To one 28-year-old woman who was across the street when the shooting started, it seemed as if the shooters were trading fire, with 100 or so club-goers caught in the middle. The club’s front door was open at the time, and the woman said she could see the flashes of gunfire inside.
“Shots were flying everywhere,” said the woman, who declined to give her name.
The scene evokes memories of several Miami-area club shootings, including a massacre 22 years ago at a restaurant called Taste of the Islands. More than 100 people were inside, 18 were wounded and four died. In June 2007, four armed men covering their faces with white bandanas entered the Polish American Club in Miami and began firing at a group of young men and women celebrating their graduation. Two people were killed and five were injured. The victims were 15 to 20 years old.
In July 2009, someone opened fire at a birthday party at an Overtown housing project where more than 200 people were gathered. Two people died and 12 were hurt.
Other, more recent South Florida club shootings also have caused chaos and bloodshed. In December, an altercation at an Allapattah nightclub called El Romance led to the shooting death of a man. And in June, a personal chef was shot dead at Mansion, a club in South Beach, where a fight preceded the bullets and made a large crowd run for the exits.
As in some of those cases, police have had a difficult time pinning down details at The Spot.
Burden, the Miami police spokeswoman, said investigators were talking with witnesses and trying to determined what happened.
“People were scrambling to get out, and we have a lot of victims,” she said. “There are a lot of people to talk to.”
Police were not certain of the caliber of the weapons or whether there was in fact more than one shooter. One officer said he suspected the gunfire was part of an ongoing feud.
The shootings at The Spot were part of a bloody Miami weekend as officers and paramedics scrambled to two other shootings nearby. No one was killed, but three were wounded.
A man who was shot outside a supermarket a few blocks from The Spot was released Sunday afternoon with bandages on his leg and stomach. “They say it was an AK-47,” said Vernon Shaftell, 33. Another person was shot there as well. And at Northeast 79th Street and Third Avenue, a man was wounded in yet another shooting.
As police investigated the violence at The Spot, a party table in front of the club sat littered with an empty daiquiri-mix bottle and a disassembled blender.
A neighborhood resident who declined to give her name said Sunday that she encountered a mean crowd the couple of times she had visited the club.
“There are no nice people there,” she said, including the managers.
Another neighbor, Donald Wright, said the managers shouldn’t be blamed. Wright, 45, said the parents of the teens and preteens at the club during the shooting are to blame for letting their kids out that late.
“The owner’s just trying to run a business,” he said. “The kids should’ve been home.”
Bridget Davis, who identified herself as the aunt of a 15-year-old who was shot several times, told reporters by telephone that she was outraged that such gunplay could take place in a club.
“They’re supposed to check everybody,” she said. “The club needs to be shut down.”
Police asked anyone with information about the shootings to call Miami homicide at 305-603-6350 or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477.
Miami Herald staff writers Charles Rabin and Kathryn Varn contributed to this report.