Three people were killed and another five wounded when people in several cars opened fire outside a graduation party at a lounge near Miami-Dade College’s Kendall campus early Sunday — the latest in a string of mass shootings that have roiled South Florida in recent weeks.
One victim was identified as Tyleisha Taylor, a 20-year-old Florida Department of Corrections officer who police do not believe was the target of the shooting. Two other men, not yet identified, died when their red Toyota Camry “fled the scene” and smashed into a wall of the college campus about 2:20 a.m. The vehicle was peppered with bullet holes, and investigators were probing whether the car was part of the drive-by ambush and was struck by return gunfire from the crowd.
Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez said a gun was found in the crashed car but police were still sorting through what happened and many details of the shooting, as well as the motive, remained unclear. Still, it was the second consecutive weekend of deadly gun violence that has sparked community outrage.
“This violence has to stop,” Ramirez said. “This is extremely frustrating. Every weekend, it’s the same thing. And we’ve just got to band together. We did Operation Summer Heat, made a lot of arrests, seized a lot of firearms and here we are again.”
The shooting occurred near what social media advertisements described as a graduation party at the Hookah Inn, 10549 SW 109th Ct.
While speaking with media outside crime scene tape near Southwest 107th Street and 109th Court, Ramirez said witnesses said people were leaving the party around 2 a.m. when the shooters rolled up and began firing, a description that sounds similar to last week’s shooting at El Mula. Ramirez said investigators were looking for a dark car, possibly a Chevrolet Malibu, and a white Toyota Camry.
Ramirez said investigators didn’t believe Taylor was the shooters’ intended target.
James Baiardi, the president of the state corrections chapter of the Police Benevolent Association, said Taylor, a 2018 graduate of Miami Southridge High School, was part of wave of hirings of high school grads to help fill pressing vacancies. She worked at Dade Correctional Institution. The Florida Department of Corrections said she started with them in January 2020.
“Officers around the state are sad. We’re shocked and heartbroken,” he said. “She gave much of a short life to public service.”
A statement from Florida Secretary of Corrections Mark Inch said, “We are devastated to learn a member of our FDC family, Officer Taylor, was killed in a fatal shooting. Our prayers are with her family as they navigate this unimaginable loss.”
This occurred in Miami-Dade commissioner Raquel Regalado’s district and, Sunday morning, she issued a statement that ended, “We need to do more to keep our young people safe, including requiring events to hire off-duty police and expanding ShotSpotter to more areas, something I’m committed to.”
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said, “I’m fully committed to making sure Miami-Dade Police Department has all the resources it needs to end this cycle of gun violence and prevent more tragedy by getting violent criminals off the street. And we will be getting youth off the streets and creating alternate pathways for the highest-risk young people.”
On Tuesday, Miami-Dade commissioners are slated for a committee vote on Levine Cava’s $8 million “Peace and Prosperity” plan to boost youth programs and surveillance efforts through 2022 as a way to reduce gun violence.
Coming a week after a Memorial Day Weekend drenched in bullets and death, most notably the attack at the El Mula Banquet Hall in Northwest Miami-Dade’s Country Club of Miami area that killed three people and injured 20, a reporter asked Ramirez if Miami-Dade is safe.
“The question you’ve got to ask is ‘Is America safe?” Ramirez said. “This type of violence, it’s not like it’s only happening in Miami-Dade County. This plague of gun violence is happening throughout our country, throughout our youth, throughout our communities.
“This is the new pandemic.”
MIami Herald staff Writer Charles Rabin contributed to this story.