It was a hot Sunday afternoon and 17-year-old Kimson Green and three others were sitting on the lawn in front of an apartment in Liberty Square, a crime-plagued complex undergoing a $307 million makeover to help reduce the gun violence that has plagued it for decades.
Then there were shots. People scattered. When the chaos subsided, Green, a popular Northwestern High School sophomore who was to be inducted in the National Honor Society next month, and a former student named Rickey Dixon, 18, were killed. Two others, including a senior at Northwestern, were wounded.
Normally, a shooting in Miami’s Liberty Square wouldn’t get much attention outside of grieving family members and the local media. But with emotions running raw in the days since people had spoken out about gunfire deaths in their community and were ignored — especially after all the attention paid to the Parkland high school shooting in February — politicians and residents gave voice.
And some of the statements weren’t entirely accurate.
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On Sunday evening, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate against incumbent Bill Nelson, called political and law enforcement leaders in Miami and Miami-Dade and offered state law enforcement resources.
Then it was Nelson’s turn. The senator tweeted that he had just got off the phone with state Rep. Kionne McGhee and it appeared the shooter or shooters used assault weapons. Not so, say Miami police. The dozens of bullets fired were from handguns.
When another shooting a few hours later injured a man in neighboring Brownsville, residents and some Miami police initially believed it to be in retaliation for the Sunday afternoon shooting. Miami-Dade police later determined the shootings were not connected.
Here’s what police do know: It was just past 2 p.m. on an unusually warm Sunday, and Green, Dixon and two others were sitting around talking in front of an apartment at Northwest 63rd Street and 13th Place. The afternoon heat notched up after one or possibly two shooters appeared on foot and opened fire with handguns.
Green was dead on the scene. Dixon died after being taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. The two others, who haven’t been named, were shot and injured. Their conditions are said to be stable but critical.
A day after the shootings, police say they still don’t have a motive and the shooter or shooters haven’t been caught.
“They were just hanging out, a bunch of kids,” said Miami Police Cmdr. Keandra Simmons. “We have no idea what the basis was behind this. I personally spoke to his [Green’s] mom. She said he was walking to the store and he’s not involved with anything.”
By all accounts, Green was a special student. He was killed just a month shy of being inducted into the National Honor Society.
“He’s a great leader. Never a follower,” said Shakeita Gunder, one of his teachers. “An A-B student.”
Valencia Woodbine, Green’s writing teacher, said he had a strong work ethic and even attended classes on Saturdays.
“He worked so hard,” she said.
The pall of Sunday’s shooting hung over Northwestern High as students returned to class on Monday. The Liberty City school, with a proud tradition and a large alumni base, has lost several students to gunfire the past few years.
In a seven-month period in 2015, four students were shot to death, none on school grounds. First, 15-year-old Joewaun Coles, known to friends as “Popcorn,” was killed outside his apartment when two men in masks shot up a craps game in the complex’s courtyard.
Five months later, Randall Dwaine Robinson III, 17, and Maurice Harris, also 17, were shot to death three days apart. And near the end of the year, 15-year-old Johnny Lubin Jr., was killed when someone fired from inside a car as the teen was walking home from school.
Last week a 4-year-old named Nyla Jones was shot and killed in the neighborhood during what police described as a domestic squabble. Like after many of Liberty City’s shootings, police and the community have planned yet another peace march at Liberty Square, this one for Wednesday evening.
On Monday morning, tears streamed down teachers’ faces as they spoke of Green and the other Northwestern student who had been shot. Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the number of students seeking counseling appeared to be unprecedented. He implored anyone with information on the shooting to step forward.
“Break the silence,” said the school superintendent.
Carvalho said he spoke with Green’s mother.
“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.”
In the past few weeks crime has spiked in Liberty Square, which is now about one-third empty as it undergoes a vast transformation. County leaders have promised tenants won’t be displaced. As new apartments are being built, the tenants are taking up temporary homes in other apartments.
On Monday, the city and county leaders who spoke with Gov. Scott the night before said that they intend to accept any resources he offers. Miami City Manager Emilio Gonzalez said additional police will be patrolling the Liberty Square neighborhood.
Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said he was also contacted by the Florida Highway Patrol, which offered assistance to tamp down the gun violence.
“We can certainly use them for patrols. We’ll use whatever help we can get,” said the director, who said he’ll spend the next few days coming up with a plan to use the state resources. “I’m going to get creative. I will utilize them smartly.”