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Recent string of shootings contrasts with dropping crime rate

A mother-to-be enjoying a family dinner. A man recently released from jail under a controversial self-defense law. A young father talking with a friend.

These were some of the lives taken in three weeks in a string of shootings in North Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

Seven shootings were responsible for injuring 14 people, six of whom died. Several cling to life in hospitals. The mayhem comes at a time when murders and violent crime are dropping statewide and countywide.

Three of the seven shootings were drive-bys in quiet neighborhoods, tearing through a pregnant woman’s family dinner and casual conversations among friends, leaving survivors with questions and terror.

With hot months, burning tempers, teenagers mulling around during summer break and unemployment keeping tensions high, the shootings don’t come as a surprise, said Fred Shenkman, University of Florida sociology and criminology professor emeritus.

“Temperatures are outrageous and people are outside more and so on, so temperature can be a contributing factor, but there are other things” such as underlying, untreated causes of large-scale poverty, he said.

Some, like Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, have pointed toward these incidents as evidence of escalating gang violence.

“It’s no longer about drugs. It’s about turf and guns,” Spence-Jones told CBS4. “We can’t have that in our neighborhoods. People have to feel safe in their neighborhoods.”

Others say this is part of the normal ebb and flow of crime in a major city.

Crime in Florida has steadily declined since 1990, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Florida murder rates have dropped to a third of what they were in the 1970s. In 1971, the murder rate was 13.2 killings per 100,000 people. In 2011, it was 5.2 per 100,000 people, and the overall trend shows a continuous decline each decade.

In Miami-Dade, the murder rate has also been dropping for about the last 15 years. In 2011, there were 218 murders — a rate of 728 incidents per 100,000 people.

So far in 2012, there have been about 120 homicides in Miami-Dade, according to the county medical examiner’s office.

“All along this street, there is crime on it, and it would be better for us if people know and they come to clean up the street,” said Leon Beaubrun, 61, who lived near one of the drive-bys. “I hope they catch the people who have done this.”

On June 26, 29-year-old Angelese Ladson walked onto her porch to invite a friend to her upcoming baby shower. She glowed with the pride of a mother-to-be, her hand resting on her 8-month-along belly. As family laughed inside the 18048 NW 40th Pl. home in Miami Gardens, three men pulled up to the home, fired several shots and drove off.

Ladson was fatally struck in the neck, and another woman was hit in the leg, not seriously.

Ladson died at the scene, and her unborn son, Davon Scott Jr., was pulled from her womb at Jackson Memorial Hospital, but it was too late. They were buried together.

Later that day, Greyston Garcia, known for beating a murder charge under the controversial Stand-Your-Ground law, was running an errand for his boss when a stray bullet from a firefight hit him. He had been working at a cramped all-night convenience store at 6900 NW 15th Ave. in Liberty City, trying to escape the infamy his freedom had cost.

Garcia died on the way to Jackson from wounds caused by the firefight. Sixteen-year-old Ron Jones was also hit by the spray of bullets. He died at the scene.

On July 4, Bevins Bennett, 20, and Antoinne Robert Hester, 22, got into a fight in a Kia Soul while the vehicle was between Sunrise Boulevard and Sample Road, Broward Sheriff’s Office said. Hester shot Bennett, who died at Broward Health North.

On July 6, three people were hurt when their car was sprayed with bullets as they drove down 167th Street. The driver, Alexander Jiron, sped onto the Palmetto Expressway near Northwest 57th Avenue and called 911. He pulled over on a shoulder of the expressway, where police arrived to help them. Passengers Michael Cordero, 33, Juan Salgado, 50, and Jasmine Smith, 30, were injured but recovering.

Last week, Ahmad Mackay, 29, and Frank Wiwo, 28, stood outside a neighbor’s home at 1045 NW 55 St. when a man drove up and shot at them several times and then sped away.

Mackay, the father of a toddler, and Wiwo, a PE coach at a Hialeah Catholic church, were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. Mackay died of his wounds, and Wiwo was in critical condition.

In the early morning hours on July 10, men in a silver Toyota RAV4 gunned down two men outside 132 NE 64th Street in Miami, critically injuring them.

That night, Horatio Stephon Philmore, 21, and Terrance A. Greene, 20, were in a car near Miami Gardens Drive and Northeast 18th Avenue when someone shot at them from an adjacent vehicle.Philmore died at the scene, and Greene was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was in serious condition.

While the past few weeks have been particularly bloody in these areas, University of Miami associate professor of law and former public defender Tamara Rice Lave said the overall trend of decreasing crime should put the recent uptick in perspective.

“Sure, there can be ups and downs,” Lave said. “I think there’s just some times when it goes up, and some times when it goes down, but overall its been dropping.”

Shenkman agreed, saying these types of incidences can be misrepresented if they aren’t looked at with a critical eye.

“That could just be a snapshot,” he said. “That’s not really representative of the big picture.”

If you have any information about any of these crimes, police urge you to call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477 or Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-8477.

Miami Herald writers David Ovalle, Anna Edgerton, Monique O. Madan and Daniela Guzman contributed to this report.