The Liberty City nightclub where 15 young people were shot in the middle of the night over the weekend is a legally licensed restaurant that serves alcohol and welcomes kids.
And while cops have visited The Spot four times in the past six months, the calls were for fire alarms, a domestic dispute, loud music and a fight among three men.
Early Sunday, police officers and paramedics found themselves in the middle of chaos. As the music blared, gunmen opened fire, leaving young party-goers wounded and dazed. The victims ranged in age from 12 to 25.
The Spot on Seventh Avenue secured its license in April and can legally seat up to 50 people. But parents and city leaders question why the club allowed youngsters into a place that serves alcohol until 3 a.m. — whether they were drinking or not.
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“We don’t know how many people were inside. And there’s no proof the minors were drinking alcohol,” Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso said.
Here’s what city officials do know:
A confrontation inside The Spot, 6410 NW Seventh Ave., escalated to gunfire, with one man emptying his weapon inside the club, and another firing away from the getaway vehicle out front.
Two men fired about three dozen shots during the rampage that sent 15 people to Jackson Memorial Hospital with gunshot wounds, and another to the hospital after being hit by a car, according to police. No one was killed despite the shots inside the crowded club.
None of the club-goers returned fire, police said. Nine of the 15 have been released from the hospital. Three are in good condition, and one is in critical condition, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
Police are looking for a white car. They are not certain of model or year, or the names of the shooters. Police have not released the names, ages or genders of the victims.
The 12-year-old was believed to be the daughter of someone who works at the club. The club-goer in critical condition is believed to be 15 and a Miami Norland Senior High School student.
“The shooting started inside. He ran out, then there was shooting from the car,” Police Chief Manuel Orosa said Monday. “I have two concerns: Why was an establishment selling alcohol when there were juveniles in there at 1 a.m? And most clubs have metal detectors. Why not this one?”
The operators of The Spot — nestled between the towering Carrie Meek Educational Center and a small furniture store on the west side of Liberty City’s most iconic roadway — couldn’t be reached to answer those questions Monday. Police said the company’s president, John Stuart, was at the club Monday cooperating as investigators combed through the damage.
Witnesses described a mad scramble after the gunfire broke out just past 1 a.m. Sunday, with people rushing out the front and back doors and into the street, and emergency vehicles moving in from all directions. One woman who lives two blocks from the dance club said she found a bullet casing in her mailbox that she believed came from the melee.
Seven of the victims, five males and two females, were taken to Jackson by paramedics. Others got rides. An empty daiquiri-mix bottle sat on a table outside the club next to a blender. A surveillance video from a neighboring furniture store, time-stamped 1:24 a.m., shows streams of people filing out of the club as emergency vehicles pull up to to the front.
Parents and the teens who have been going to The Spot said it has become much more youth-friendly recently, advertising visits from local DJs and musicians on Facebook and through other social media.
For years, The Spot didn’t cater to younger people. At what once was known as The Caribbean Spot, regulars savored the fried fish, conch, pigeon peas and cabbage, and even entered a citywide pool tournament.
On Monday, some of the injured victims and their friends turned to Facebook to leave get-well messages and post pictures. One page showed a photo of person shot in the right leg and claimed he was a 20-year-old victim who was released from the hospital Sunday. The young man told the Miami Herald on Sunday before he left the hospital that he was listening to music when the gunfire began. He said he tried to get out of the way, but couldn’t.
Another picture shows a man with a bandage wrapped around his hand. A girl claiming to be his girlfriend posted pictures of herself with him in the hospital.
“Nobody knows how it feels to get a phone call saying your boyfriend got shot,” said the girl, who calls herself Lowkeyy Nishaa. “I didn't know what to do but scream, go crazy, and wanna hold him.”
Miami Herald staff writer Carli Teproff contributed to this report.