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Holiday week shootings add to troubling trend of drive-bys

Mourners sign a memorial Friday at a store at 467 NW Eighth St. where three were shot on Christmas night.
Mourners sign a memorial Friday at a store at 467 NW Eighth St. where three were shot on Christmas night. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Three shootings injured four people and left two dead over the past two days, including Christmas Day, in Coconut Grove, Liberty City and Overtown.

The latest shooting on Friday night claimed the life of a 14-year-old boy who was killed in an apparent drive-by shooting near Northwest 52nd Street and 12th Avenue, said Miami Police Det. Rene Pimentel.

The teen, who was not from the area but visiting the neighborhood, was shot in the chest and taken to Ryder Trauma Center, where he later died, Pimentel said. His name was not released.

On Christmas Day, police said they received a call about two adult males shot in the afternoon near Grand Avenue and U.S.1. A friend transported one of the victims to the hospital. When police arrived, they found a second injured man at a home in 3800 block of Charles Terrace. Both men are expected to survive.

The shootings added to a troubling trend this year of drive-by shootings in Miami and Miami-Dade County’s north end. Though major crimes are down overall in most cities around the nation, including Miami, anecdotal evidence seems to suggest there has been an uptick in in drive-by shootings claiming multiple victims.

And most seem to have a common theme: A shooter pulls up to a crowded scene in a car, steps out and unleashes a torrent of bullets from a semi-automatic weapon into a group of people, often with little or no regard for the innocents surrounding the intended target.

The majority of the shootings remain unsolved.

Asked on Friday whether there has been a significant increase in mass drive-by shootings, Pimentel said it was a statistical question he couldn’t answer without investigating, but added “it seems that way, for sure.”

In the past two weeks, 18 people have been shot in drive-by shootings. Two have died. A teen with a bullet wound to his head survived.

The other shooting on Christmas Day happened outside the Express Food Center, a small grocery store in Overtown. Just before 8 p.m. Christmas Day as a group of people were gathered, police and witnesses say an adult male pulled up to the store at 467 NW Eighth St. and opened fire.

Three men were shot. One victis was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital by a friend. Two others were transported by Miami Fire Rescue. The dead man was identified by police as James Brown, 35. The surviving victims are Charlie Williams, 38, and Ralf Martin, 21.

The store’s owner Fahmi Abu Gazlea, said he has known Brown for more than a decade, calling him the nicest person you’d ever meet. “They used to call him Baby Boo,” Gazlea told Miami Herald news partner CBS 4.

Police had no information on the shooter. “We don’t have a name. We don’t have a motive,” Pimentel said.

It was the second time in two weeks someone is alleged to have been targeted by a drive-by shooter in Overtown. Two weeks ago, as a group of people stood in the courtyard of an apartment building at Northwest Second Avenue and 13th Street, someone drove up in a black SUV and began firing.

Five men, between the ages of 17 and 54, were hit. Witnesses identified the vehicle, but police have yet to find the shooter. None died.

A similar scene played out on a much grander scale Monday afternoon at Arcola Park at Northwest 87th Street and 17th Avenue. During a pickup basketball game, a man pulled up along 17th Avenue in a dark Nissan Maxima and began spraying bullets from inside the vehicle.

Nine people were shot, including 16-year-old Bryce Brewton, who was wounded in the head. Everyone survived. Brewton’s family members gathered Christmas Day at Mount Tabor Missionary Baptist Church, thanking the Lord that Brewton survived, local television station WSVN-Fox 7 reported.

“I was thanking God I didn’t have to arrange for my grandson’s funeral this morning,” Brewton’s grandmother Barbara Robinson told the TV station. “I’m going to visit my grandson on Christmas. What a story to tell.”

Michael Dunconson, 16, who witnessed the shooting, said, “God helped me dodge a bullet.” The shooter is still at large.

The December shootings come on the heels of two highly publicized drive-by shootings this summer. It was a June shooting at an apartment complex on the outer edge of the Liberty Square housing project that began the run.

That day, with a group gathered in the courtyard of a building at Northwest 12th Avenue and 65th Street during the summer break from school, two men got out of a black SUV and began spraying the courtyard with semi-automatic gunfire. People screamed and scattered. In the end, nine people were shot. Nakeil Jackson and Richardson were killed.

The shooting has not been solved.

Then in September a high school spat escalated to carnage. That’s when, police said, two teenagers targeting someone at a teen nightclub called The Spot in Liberty City opened fire indiscriminately into a crowd. Then they ran to a vehicle driven by a third person and continued to fire before fleeing.

Incredibly, all 15 people shot survived.

Two of the victims were 11 and 13. Jamiroquai Young, 16, who police believe pointed out the rival he wanted targeted, was arrested and charged with 14 counts of attempted murder. William Devon Campbell, 17, who police say also fired into the crowd, was charged with attempted murder and 14 counts of aggravated battery.

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