8 People Were Shot at a Big Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration in Florida

At least eight people were shot during a big Martin Luther King Jr. Day party in southeastern Florida on Monday, the police said.

More than 1,000 people were at Ilous Ellis Park in Fort Pierce, north of West Palm Beach, for a block party with live music and a car show when multiple gunshots were heard at about 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 people who were shot and were all adults were taken to the hospital in critical condition. Hester and a press release from the sheriff’s office say that four other people, including a child, were hurt as they tried to get away.

“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 think that two people had a fight in the park, which led to the shooting. So far, Hester says, the evidence shows that shots were fired from two different places and that there was more than one shooter.

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“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.”

Detectives were still talking to witnesses and gathering evidence as of Wednesday night. No one had been arrested, and no one had been named as a suspect. “We’re following up on several leads,” Hester told reporters. “We’ve got some tips from the community.”

The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office can be reached at 772-462-7300, and the Treasure Coast Crime Stoppers line can be reached anonymously at 1-800-273-8477 if anyone has any information on the incident.

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