FORT PIERCE, Fla. – A 30-year-old woman has died following a shooting that broke out between rival gang members during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Fort Pierce, sheriff’s officials said Tuesday.
The woman was attending a party with her 6-year-old daughter Monday evening following the MLK Day parade in Fort Pierce, Florida, St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said during a news conference.
“Within that park, at the conclusion of the party, shots were fired and eight people were shot, and four others were injured as they attempted to flee that chaotic scene,” the sheriff said.
Family members later identified the woman killed as Nikkitia Bryant.
“There is nothing you can tell a 6-year-old girl about her mother getting shot right in front of her,” Bryant’s brother, Calvin Bethel, said. “There is not a word you can use for that.”
No arrests have been made as of Tuesday morning, but Chief Deputy Brian Hester said detectives are working around the clock.
“Evidence supports this shooting was a dispute between two rival Fort Pierce gangs,” Hester said.
He added that investigators found over 50 shell casings from three calibers of weapons at the scene.
“Let me be very clear. If you are thinking of, or hiding, supporting, protecting or aiding any suspect, anyone involved in the heinous incident, then I can assure you you we will arrest you, and we will charge you to the fullest extent of the law.”
Witnesses described a chaotic scene.
“The first two shots were ‘bang, Bang,’ but then it started getting, a muzzle was shot and then about 1500 people started running,” witness Charlie Frank Matthews said. “I witnessed two people (getting) shot.”
Hester said the agency is working with local, state and federal agencies. They’ve set up a hotline for any tips from witnesses.
“Yesterday was MLK Day, a legacy built on nonviolence, and sadly we experienced violence in our community,” the sheriff said, adding that the agency sends its “heartfelt” condolences to the woman’s family and the community.