Tragedy has marred yet another national holiday, with a mass shooting in Florida at a family-friendly Martin Luther King Jr. Day event that left eight people wounded and one in critical condition.
Residents were gathered in Ilous Ellis Park in Fort Pierce, Fla., for an “MLK Car Show & Family Fun Day” when shots rang out near the park at around 5:20 pm, according to the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office.
“Today, Chief Deputy Hester and I were honored to be in the Martin Luther King Jr. parade along Martin Luther King Blvd,” Sheriff Ken Mascara said in a statement posted to Facebook. “Sadly, within hours of that parade ending, we are investigating a shooting in a county park located at Avenue M and 13th Street in which 8 people have been shot.”
Four people were injured as they fled the scene, including one child.
Footage of the horrifying aftermath was caught on camera and posted to Facebook and on Twitter.
⚠️⚠️ Mass shooting reported during Martin Luther King Day event. FortPierce Florida
Police are reporting a mass shooting during a MLK Day celebration at Ilous Ellis Park that has left several people injured, the exact number shot at this time is still unknown. pic.twitter.com/UDo3ZMGYIl
— A~ (@RES911CUE) January 17, 2023
“It was mass chaos, as you can imagine, when shots rang out,” said Chief Deputy Brian Hester at a press conference. “There were 1,000-plus people here at the event. And as the shots rang out, people were just running in all directions.”
“Multiple people were shot,” he explained. “It sounds like from our initial investigation here on scene, there was a disagreement of some sort between two parties, and unfortunately, they chose to resolve that with guns.”
As the bullets flew, attendees of the event dove for cover.
“There were people laying behind cars, laying behind anything they could lay behind,” Hester said. “It’s kind of hard to tell who was a victim and who was just hiding at that point as our deputies did start to render aid to multiple people. There were people in the crowd that were rendering aid as well. And then there were some people that were loading people up in cars and taking them to the hospital as well.”
Hester indicated his belief that multiple gunmen were likely involved.
The event featured “live music, local car show, kids bounce zone, and more to honor and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” according to the City of Fort Pierce’s website.
In the circulating videos, a man can be seen ducking behind a pick-up truck with a black pistol.
“Another man was seen lying on the ground surrounded by a number of people offering him help and seemingly trying to locate his wound by removing his shirt,” the Daily Mail reports.
“It’s really sad in a celebration of someone who represented peace and equality that a disagreement results in a use of guns and violence to solve that disagreement, and that’s what’s really sad to me about what happened here,” Hester said.
“And then so many innocent people who were injured or hurt and were not part of the disagreement as well,” he added.
Police have not yet apprehended a suspect.
Anyone with any information related to this incident is being asked to contact detectives or call Treasure Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-800-273-8477.
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