May 26, 2022

US: 2 dead, more than a dozen wounded in Fort Myers nightclub shooting

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Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.20.17 PMBy Associated Press , Amanda Batchelor – Senior Digital Editor , Terrell Forney – Reporter From Local ABC 10 News

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Gunfire erupted at a nightclub hosting a swimsuit-themed party for teens in Florida, leaving two dead and more than a dozen wounded, officials said Monday.

It was not immediately clear what triggered the violence.

Although they haven’t been charged in direct connection with the shooting Demetrius O’Neal, 19, Derrick Church, 19, and Tajze Battle, 22, were arrested on Monday, according to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. The trio face charges such as fleeing and eluding and resisting arrest.

The Sheriffs’ Office said in a statement that they are searching for other “potential suspects” in connection to this case.

“While we are still learning the details about what happened this morning, we know that some of the victims of this terrible incident were children,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. “We will continue to pray for the victims and their families.”

Scott attended a news conference later in the day, where he acknowledged the lower crime rate in the state.

“We’re blessed in the state. We’re in a 45-year-low crime rate. That’s a blessing, but every family we care about,” Scott said. “We don’t want this to happen to anybody — anybody at all in our state.”

Three people remained hospitalized Monday morning, Cheryl Garn, a spokeswoman for Lee Memorial Health System, said in an email. One person was listed in fair condition and two were listed in critical condition. All others were treated and released.

Two people brought to two other area hospitals were also treated and released, Garn said.

Ages of the patients ranged from 12 to 27, Garn said.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said her office is committed to helping all of the victims of the shooting.

“My office’s function is to help the family members of the two young men who lost their lives. We will be able to help them pay for funeral expenses, as well as anyone out there who is injured, if you want to seek counseling, even if there are lost wages — anything if you were injured in this event, in this horrible tragedy. We are here to help you, so please contact the police chief’s office,” Bondi said.

The club is in a strip mall that includes a daycare center and is across the street from a large apartment complex. Officers had the area taped off as crime scene technicians scoured the strip mall parking lot for clues.

State records online show the alcohol license for Club Blu was revoked on June 7. The records from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation say the license was revoked because of an incident that occurred a year ago, but there are no additional details available. The same records also show that a complaint was filed in 2014 for “criminal activity” and that the club was given an official notice.

The violence at Club Blu erupted about 12:30 a.m. Monday, Mulligan said. There were two active crime scenes, police said. Several hours later a street in the area remained closed as police investigated.

“There was people running left to right,” witness Juan Santenez said. “Some were shot, some were just running, some (were) calling for back up.”

In a statement, authorities said the Fort Myers police and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office were “actively canvassing the area looking for other persons who may be involved in this incident.”

Family members identified one of the victims killed as Stef’an Strawder, 18, who was a senior at Lehigh Senior High School.

Relatives said Stawder was shot in the abdomen and had surgery before he died. His younger sister was shot in the leg.

The other teen who died was identified by police as Sean Archilles, 14.

“For me to get a phone call — ‘come get your son’s body’ — that was painful,” Jean Archilles said.

Syreeta Gary told WFTX-TV her daughter ran and dodged between shots to avoid being shot. Her daughter was OK, but her daughter’s friend “got hit in the leg and luckily it’s just her leg,” she said.

“Her dodging bullets and running, dropping in between cars, it’s ridiculous that these kids have to go through this,” Gary said. “They can’t enjoy themselves because you have other people that have criminalistic minds and they just want to terrorize things.”

A post on Club Blu’s Facebook page Monday morning said the shooting happened as the club was closing and parents were picking up their children. The post also said there was armed security at the event.

“We are deeply sorry for all involved,” the post read. “We tried to give teens what we thought was a safe place to have a good time.”

Fort Myers police said they have learned that a few of the victims who sustained minor injuries were released from the hospital before speaking with detectives. They are asking that anyone who was at the club when the shooting occurred comes forward to police so they can take statements from as many people as possible.

The shooting comes more than a month after a nightclub shooting in Orlando that was the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history. The shooting at the Pulse nightclub on June 12 left 49 victims dead and 53 others wounded.

Police said they do not suspect terrorism in Monday’s shooting, but believe that it is gang-related.

Anyone with information about the Fort Myers shooting is asked to call police at 239-321-7700 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS.

IMAGE: Stef’an Strawder, 18, (left) and Sean Archilles, 14, were fatally shot early Monday at a nightclub in Fort Myers.

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