A fusillade of bullets fired by somebody who witnesses said “came through like they thought they were Rambo” felled four young men in the crime-blasted Liberty Square area of Liberty City Sunday afternoon, killing two and sending two others to the hospital.
The shootings ended the lives of Rickey Dixon, 18, and Kimson Green, 17, accordin gto Miami police.
The four were gunned down as they sat on the lawn outside a row of one-floor apartments at Northwest 63 Street and 13th Place. The gunman — or gunmen, plural; police weren’t sure — got away, and no one seemed certain if he was in a car or on foot.
But neighbors who heard the shooting from inside their own homes said there was nothing stealthy about the gunfire. One said she believed there were as many as 25 shots; another, that “it was like fireworks going off.”
The pall of Sunday’s shooting in Liberty Square hung over Northwestern Senior High School early Monday, as students returned to class without two of their own.
One 12th-grader remains in the hospital. The other, a 10th grader, died from bullet wounds Sunday. He was about to be inducted into the National Honor Society on May 9, an achievement his former teachers touted when they spoke to reporters Monday morning.
“He’s a great leader. Never a follower,” said Shakeita Gunder, one of the student’s teachers. “An A-B student.”
Valencia Woodbine, the boy’s writing teacher, said he had a strong work ethic in school, including on the weekends. “Every Saturday school, he ranked up all the energy in the Saturday academy,” she said. “He worked so hard.”
Tears streamed down other teachers’ faces during the remarks. Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said many students were arriving Monday to seek grief counseling — more than he’d ever seen before. He implored anyone with information about the shooting to come forward and speak to authorities.
“If you know something, say something,” Carvalho said. “Break the silence.”
The superintendent, who said he and his entire top administrative team would work out of Northwestern through the day in a show of solidarity with the school community, told reporters he spoke with the 10th grader’s grieving mother, offering the school system’s support. “Our support should not be about burying her kid,” he said. “Our support should be about giving her kid a scholarship to go to college. That will never happen.”
One victim was dead when police reached the scene just after 2 p.m., the other died later at Jackson Memorial Hospital. The other two were still being treated late Sunday night. Police refused to identify any of the victims but said one was under 18 while the others were adults.
A dazed woman who showed up at the crime scene hours later to identify one of the victims said his name was Ricky and his age was 17. Gazing around at blocks of Liberty Square public housing — the complex includes 753 units — she gestured with her arm and said in a bewildered voice: “I can’t understand how these people can live over here. They can’t come out of their houses.”
Those words were disturbingly close to literal. “We were just over here last week marching for Baby Nyla,” said one woman, referring to the fatal shooting of 4-year-old Nyla Jones on March 31. A makeshift memorial of flowers and stuffed animals was still standing Sunday, barely two blocks away from the crime scene.
Nyla’s shooting was apparently the result of some kind of family dispute. But several community activists who know that part of Liberty City well said that Sunday’s shootings were part of an escalating wave of tit-for-tat violence between street gangs in Liberty Square and the nearby Brownsville neighborhood.
The long-standing enmity between the gangs, they said, has been exacerbated by the transfer of families between public housing in the two neighborhoods.
“I’m sure it was retaliatory for something that happened in Brownsville,” said Tangela Sears, the founder of Miami-Dade Parents Of Murdered Kids. “These groups call themselves gangs, and they fight group against group, territory against territory.”
“We don’t know if this was a vindictive act,” said Miami Police spokeswoman Kiara Delva on Sunday afternoon. “We don’t know if it is gang-related. There’s a lot we don’t know yet.”
Regardless of the cause of the shootings, they set off immediate political ripples throughout the state.
Gov. Rick Scott spent most of the 7 p.m. hour Sunday on the phone with FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen, Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez about the shooting, offering state assistance.
Suarez planned to speak to City Manager Emilio Gonzalez to see if Miami could use state resources, but said it’s clear after five shootings in eight days at the public housing complex — where there’s a higher than normal vacancy rate because of an ongoing redevelopment project — that local governments need to do more.
“Locally, we’re going to have to up our presence. … We are going to have to step up patrolling and police presence in this area,” said Suarez, who described the shooting as an “ambush.”
The streets around the crime scene, under an angry afternoon sun, were a mixture of heartbreak and rage at the continuing violence. As cops combed the neighborhood for witnesses — “We know everyone out here because we’re here so often,” said one police officer — residents gathered at a police cordon at Northwest 63rd Street and 13th Avenue, anxious to find out whether their loved ones were among the victims.
But in some cases, the news came faster than the police could even react. One middle-aged woman answered her ringing cellphone, listened a moment, and shrieked in anguish.
“Oh my God, it was him! Oh my God, it was my baby!” she cried.
Bystanders clustered around, embracing the sobbing woman. Some of them were less comforting than bitter.
“Every time this happens, we just say OK and walk away,” one woman declared. “But it’s not OK. Nothing is OK about this situation.”
Miami Herald staff writers David Smiley and Joey Flechas also contributed to this report.