MLK Day shooting victim in Florida was mother celebrating with her child, deputies say

Jan. 17 (UPI) -- One victim of the shooting at Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in Florida has died, authorities confirmed on Tuesday.

Seven others were injured in the shooting, which St. Lucie County Chief Deputy Brian Hester said stemmed from a dispute between two rival gangs.


The deceased is a 30-year-old mother who was attending the celebration with her 6-year-old daughter. The woman died at Longwood Hospital in Fort Pierce.

"Now what was a shooting investigation has turned into a murder investigation," said Sheriff Ken Mascara during a press briefing on Tuesday morning.

"We want our community to play a role in solving this horrendous event that happened yesterday."

More than 50 shell casings of three different calibers were recovered from the scene. Local, state and federal agencies are involved in the investigation.

The shooting happened at about 5:20 p.m. Monday following a disagreement between two parties at Ilous Ellis Park in Fort Pierce, located about 120 miles southeast of Orlando, the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

Authorities reported four others were injured amid a crowd that was attempting to flee the scene.


Hester told reporters during a press conference Monday that more than a thousand people had gathered at Avenue M and 13th Street for a block party following a car show that was part of the city's Martin Luther King Jr. Day festivities when the shooting occurred.

He described the scene as "mass chaos."

"As the shots rang out, people were just running in all directions," he said. "There were people laying behind cars, laying behind anything they could lay behind. It was kind of hard to tell who was a victim and who was just hiding at that point."

Deputies and people in the crowd administered aid to those injured, including loading them into vehicles to transport them to hospitals, he said.

Asked if there were any suspects, Hester said between 30 and 40 officers were following up on leads as well tips from the public.

"We are following up on several leads as we speak," he said.

He added investigators suspect there were multiple shooters based on evidence found at the scene, while asking on members of the public to come forward with any information they may have about the shooting.

Concerning those injured, all were adults aside from one juvenile who was injured in the chaos following the shooting, he said.


"It's really unfortunate and it's sad that during a celebration of someone who represented peace and equality that a disagreement results in a use of guns and violence to solve that disagreement," he said.

According to non-profit, non-advocacy organization the Gun Violence Archive, there has been at least 29 mass shootings so far this year. During the first 16 days of 2023, there have been 787 gun deaths, it said.

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