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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Nine people wounded in Memorial Day shooting near Florida beach

By Jesús Jiménez

At least nine people were wounded when gunfire erupted on Memorial Day between two groups near a beach in Hollywood, Florida, in a shooting that sent dozens of panicked beachgoers fleeing or ducking for cover Monday evening, officials said.

Deanna Bettineschi, a spokesperson for the Hollywood Police Department, said at a news conference Monday night that police responded earlier in the evening to reports of shots fired near the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, about 20 miles north of Miami.

When police arrived, they found several people with gunshot wounds, and they began rendering aid, Bettineschi said. The victims were taken to area hospitals, including a children’s hospital.

Details about the victims remained unclear Monday night with differing police and hospital accounts. A spokesperson for the Memorial Healthcare System in Hollywood said in an email that six adults and three children were among the victims, and they were all in stable condition Monday night.

In a second news conference Monday night, Bettineschi said that four children, ranging in ages from 1 to 17, were wounded along with five adults, who were between 25 to 65. Bettineschi said that one victim was in surgery Monday night, and that the other eight victims were in stable condition.

It is unclear what led to the shooting or how many people were involved in the confrontation.

“There was a dispute between two different groups, and that’s when there was the gunfire,” Bettineschi said at the initial news conference.

One person of interest was in custody Monday night, and police were searching for another, she added.

The episode was one of the latest instances of gun violence in the United States, with shootings that have taken place in common areas such as schools, malls, dance halls, banks and workplaces.

The shooting Monday took place in a busy area along Hollywood Beach that is surrounded by bars, restaurants and hotels and where crowds had gone on the Memorial Day holiday. Videos circulating on social media from around the time of the shooting showed some people ducking for cover, while others ran off from the boardwalk area.

Other videos showed police officers and bystanders rendering aid to victims on or near the sand.

Bettineschi said that police believed some of the victims could have been bystanders caught in the dispute between the two groups.

Mayor Josh Levy of Hollywood said in the second news conference Monday night that the “altercation” between the two groups was “just completely unacceptable.”

“People come to enjoy a holiday weekend on the beach with their families,” Levy said. “To have people in complete, reckless disregard of the safety of the public, and to have an altercation with guns in a public setting with thousands of people around them, is beyond reckless.”

Chief Chris O’Brien of the Hollywood Police Department said that dozens of police officers were patrolling the area Monday as thousands were expected to visit the beach on the holiday. O’Brien asked witnesses to share videos or any information of the shooting with police to help the investigation.

“We will leave no stone unturned,” O’Brien said, adding that those involved “will be held accountable for their actions.”

Bettineschi said that police had set up an assistance center where witnesses could speak to detectives and where family members could be given information about the victims.

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