La-Nard Wilcher’s lifeless and bullet-riddled body rested along a set of railroad tracks in Miami-Dade’s north end for more than 12 hours until a passerby spotted the dead teen Sunday afternoon.
No one knew the 16-year-old was shot, and no one knew he was dead. Yet the previous night, Miami-Dade detectives had rushed to within two blocks of where Wilcher’s life ended after learning another teen had been struck by gunfire.
Deon Fowles, 15, is in critical condition, but alive.
“We weren’t able to interview the victim [Fowles] who was shot because he went into surgery,” said Miami-Dade Detective Marjorie Eloi. “Four teens were walking together when they were ambushed and shot at. They fled in all different directions. They were running for their lives.”
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Police said Wilcher, Fowles and two friends were walking along the Florida East Coast Railroad tracks at Northwest 72nd Street and 20th Avenue shortly before midnight Saturday when another group popped out of the shadows and began firing.
Everyone scattered. Fowles was struck while running away but somehow managed to scamper for about two blocks to Northwest 73rd Street and 19th Court. When police got there, paramedics were already hauling Fowles off to the hospital. And there were no other witnesses to interview, Eloi said.
“Fast-forward to Sunday, and a passerby noticed the deceased person,” she said.
Eloi wouldn’t go into details about how the detectives linked the two shootings. She said she was unsure if it was through surveillance or if they had interviewed potential witnesses.
Wilcher’s shooting death is just the latest in what has become a troubling trend, especially in the county’s north end: teen gunfire deaths.
With almost four dozen teens losing their lives to gunfire over the past year, stopping teen gun violence has become a cornerstone of new Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez’s agenda. The county has been working with local, state, even federal law enforcement to identify hot spots and the main culprits.
Perez and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said other new techniques are being put in place, like identifying potentially troubled kids as soon as they enter the juvenile justice system.
The problem at that point is creating a system that engages the teens and stops them from repeating the same crimes.
“The goal is to identify the at-risk kids before they pull the trigger,” Perez said during an interview last week. “We profile the kids based on history. Typically they don’t have the support at home. So we identify their needs, find them mentors and develop relationships.”
Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendant Alberto Carvalho — who often expresses his disgust with teen violence through social media —weighed in again, this time on Twitter.
“The carnage continues in Miami-Dade with overnight shooting that claims the life of 16-year-old and critically injures 15-year-old. #Enough,” he tweeted.
And Fowles’ mother told Miami Herald news partner CBS4 that her son was shot in the back and the bullet went through his liver and exited his front side. Now he has blood clots, she said.
“He said he heard the gun shots and his friends ran in different directions. He ran to somebody’s car and asked for help,” Kimberly O’Shell said.