Police have taken three men into custody in connection with a shooting in a violent Miami neighborhood early Tuesday morning that the Miami Herald described as one of the worst mass shootings in the city in decades.
Two people were killed and seven others were wounded when two men pulled up to an apartment complex in the Liberty City district in a dark SUV at 2:30 a.m. and fired dozens of rounds into the building from AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles, police said.
The shooting occurred close to a location where the Miami Police Department had just added an additional six officers. The police union said the incident resulted in part from the area police force being outmanned and under-resourced.
"We have reached a tipping point in the district where the criminal element has no fear of our police officers and are beginning to act with impunity," said a news release signed by Miami Police Sgt. Javier Ortiz, president of the city's Fraternal Order of Police lodge. “Folks, people are getting killed in groups three blocks outside of our police station.”
The news release also characterized the incident as a gangland shooting – a claim that appeared to be corroborated by local media, who reported that witnesses were afraid to speak to police for fear of retribution.
Police have identified the dead as Kevin Richard, 30, and Nakiel Jackson, 26. Among the wounded, one is in critical condition, one is in stable condition, and the condition of another three victims is considered serious.
The incident was a targeted killing, police say. They add, however, that they do not think the intended target was at the location of the shooting, and the motive remains unclear.
City Manager Daniel Alfonso did not speculate on the causes of the incident. He did, however, pledge to rework Miami’s crime-combatting strategy. “We are going to work with our law enforcement partners to make it better,” he said.
Miami police officials have acknowledged and, at times, criticized the increasing availability of assault rifles in the city in recent years.
In 2006, Miami-Dade Police Director Robert Parker first complained of an influx of assault weapons into Miami. “There was nothing positively gained by the lifting of the ban on assault weapons by the government,” he said at a press conference, referring to the expiration of the national ban on such weapons in 2004.
In 2007, the Miami Police Department made national headlines when its officers were given the choice to carry assault rifles on patrol. At the time, Miami Police Chief John Timoney said that the move was necessary to counter the increase in assault-rifle use among the city's criminals.
When two young people were killed with a semiautomatic AK-47 at a birthday party in the city in 2009, Timoney again spoke out, that time to advocate against the legality of assault weapons.
“For me, it’s a no-brainer,” he said to ABC News. “These are weapons of war. Under no circumstance do they belong in the cities of America.”
According to the police chief, the proportion of homicides involving assault rifles in Miami has jumped in recent years, from 4 percent in 2004 to 21 percent in 2012.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.