At least eight people were shot in southeastern Florida on Monday during a massive celebration for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, authorities said.
More than 1,000 people were attending a block party with live music and a car show at Ilous Ellis Park in Fort Pierce, north of West Palm Beach, when multiple gunshots rang out at approximately 5:20 p.m. local time, just hours after an MLK Day parade had ended, according to the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office.
“It was mass chaos,” Chief Deputy Brian Hester, who took part in the parade, told reporters on Monday night. “People were running in all different directions.”
One of the eight gunshot victims, all of whom were adults, was hospitalized in critical condition. Four other individuals, including a child, were injured as they ran for safety, according to Hester and a press release from the sheriff’s office.
“There were people laying behind cars, laying behind anything they could lay behind,” Hester recalled. “It was kind of hard to tell who was a victim and who was just hiding at that point.”
Detectives believe the shooting was a result of a dispute between two parties in the park. So far, evidence suggests there were two different areas from where gunshots were fired and that there was more than one shooter, according to Hester.
“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,” 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.”
As of Wednesday night, detectives were still interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence. No arrests had been made and no suspects had been named.
“We’re following up on several leads,” Hester told reporters. “We’ve got some tips from the community.”
Anyone with information on the incident is urged to call the the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office at 772-462-7300 or contact Treasure Coast Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-273-8477.