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1 killed, another wounded in Miami Beach shooting as spring break crowds scatter

March 18, 2023 Updated Sat., March 18, 2023 at 7:56 p.m.

Police closed off an area on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach with crime scene tape after a shooting on March 17, 2023. (Aaron Leibowitz/Miami Herald/TNS)  (Aaron Leibowitz/Miami Herald/TNS)
Police closed off an area on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach with crime scene tape after a shooting on March 17, 2023. (Aaron Leibowitz/Miami Herald/TNS) (Aaron Leibowitz/Miami Herald/TNS)
By Aaron Leibowitz Miami Herald

MIAMI — Two people were shot Friday night, one fatally, as a relatively calm and peaceful spring break in Miami Beach was rattled by gunfire for a second straight year.

Miami Beach Police said two men were shot near Seventh Street and Ocean Drive in an “isolated incident” at about 10:41 p.m. Both were taken to Ryder Trauma Center, where one died. The other victim was listed in critical condition Friday night but has been released from the hospital, police said Saturday morning.

Four guns were recovered and one man was detained at the scene, Miami Beach Police said, though it wasn’t immediately clear whether the person detained was the shooter. Police said the person is “cooperating fully with the investigation.”

Miami Beach police spokesperson Ernesto Rodriguez said Saturday morning that the identities of the people involved could not be released while an investigation is ongoing. Police also did not immediately share details of what may have led to the shooting.

Miami Beach Police, which already had a heavy presence in the area, swarmed toward the sound of gunshots as pedestrians crowding sidewalks and the street on Ocean Drive scrambled to safety.

Hundreds of people sprinted away from the area after hearing the gunfire. The road, which was closed to cars between Fifth and 13th streets Friday, was jam-packed with visitors.

Videos circulating on social media showed chaos at a sidewalk cafe as a series of gunshots rang out and someone lay wounded in the street just steps away. Subsequent footage showed first responders administering CPR on a victim.

Police cordoned off several blocks with crime scene tape after the shooting, as people continued to mill about further north.

The incident followed two other moments of panic and confusion earlier in the night.

Around 10 p.m., large crowds that were gathered on Ocean Drive near Eighth Street bolted away from the street twice in a matter of minutes.

Bystanders said they weren’t sure what had caused people to flee. A Miami Beach police spokesperson said these appeared to be “false alarms,” and police were not aware of any injuries.

“I saw everyone running and I just ran,” said Nico, 20, a spring breaker from Canada, adding that he may have heard a sound of glass breaking.

Police were then seen riding up and down Ocean Drive on ATVs.

This is the third year in a row that the revelry has taken a sour turn during the third weekend in March, which is typically the busiest spring break weekend.

Last year, Miami Beach declared a midnight curfew following a pair of shootings on Ocean Drive. In 2021, police fired pepper-spray balls, and SWAT teams were deployed to enforce an 8 p.m. curfew.

City officials had hoped new programming and a heavy police presence would lead to fewer problems this year. Friday marked the start of “Art on the Drive,” a three-day offshoot of the Carnaval Miami street festival put on by the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana.

Artist tents were set up along the sidewalk and musicians performed on three stages in nearby Lummus Park throughout the day. This weekend’s programming will also include a professional beach volleyball tournament and an inflatable obstacle course.

The tents were closed and fenced off by early evening and the music concluded around 9 p.m. Thousands of spring breakers, many who had been at the beach earlier in the day, took over Ocean Drive to dance, drink and walk around.

Police had set up an observation tower at the corner of Eighth Street and Ocean Drive on Friday. That intersection has drawn the largest crowds over the past few weekends.

Before the deadly shooting, spring breakers said the atmosphere felt mostly safe and fun.

“I haven’t seen so many fights. I haven’t seen so much violence,” said Evan, 25, from Indianapolis. “This is my first time here. I always hear about shootings and stuff on the internet, but this year seems safe.”

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