With the nation on edge after terrorist attacks and police-related shootings and after a raucous Republican convention that warned of terrorists among us, the motive behind a nightclub shooting in Fort Myers turned out to be no less tragic — yet strangely familiar
A fight among teens escalated to gunfire with deadly consequences. A budding basketball star and a 14-year-old were killed, and 17 others were wounded. The shooting happened at the Club Blu Bar and Grill shortly after midnight Monday, after the club closed and as teens milled about talking and listening to music in the parking lot.
Nearly 12 hours after the shooting, police had three people in custody and calmed fears by acknowledging the incident was not an act of terrorism. All but four of the injured had been released from the hospital. And all the TV networks once again focused on this week’s Democratic convention.
Still, early on, with nerves still raw from the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando only six weeks earlier in which gunman Omar Mateen killed 49 people, police scrambled and contacted federal law enforcement. Streets were quickly shut down and active shooter scenarios were put in place.
The shooting also was similar to a shooting at a Palmetto nightclub almost five years ago. On Sept. 10, 2011, at least two gunmen sprayed the crowd outside Club Elite at 704 10th St. W. Two people, Trayon Goff, 25, and Gwenette Matthews, 38, were killed and at least 22 others were injured.
The shooting also was eerily similar to a mass shooting in September 2014 at a Liberty City teen nightclub called The Spot. That night, two teens from a rival high school entered the club and opened fire, striking 15 people.
Remarkably, no one was killed. The victims in Fort. Myers were 12 to 27 years old. In Miami two years ago, they were between 11 and 25.
In Fort Myers, a group in a vehicle passed by the club and several gunmen opened fire as teens were hanging out in the parking lot talking and listening to music.
Some parents who had driven over to pick up children were present when the shooting erupted. Police found two people of interest about five blocks from the crime scene where a group of cars had been pierced by gunfire. They picked up a third “person of interest” about six miles away.
In a statement posted on Facebook, the club’s owners said they were deeply sorry. “We tried to give the teens what we thought was a safe place to have a good time,” they wrote. The sheer number of victims overwhelmed Lee Memorial Hospital, which received all 16.
“This is not something we're used to, not in this type of volume by any stretch,” trauma surgeon Dr. Andrew W. Mikulaschek told NBC News. “I have been here 17 years. In terms of gunshot wound victims, this is the worst I’ve ever seen.”
In Miami on Sept. 27 of 2014, kids were dancing at The Spot when gunfire erupted. Bullets peppered the interior, hitting kids near pool tables and at a jukebox machine. Some kids were shot as they ran out the front door, near where the shooters continued to fire as they jumped into a getaway vehicle.
Fifteen children, teens and an adult were shot. Most were taken to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, a larger and more prepared hospital when it comes to dealing with catastrophes, than Lee Memorial.
Will Campbell, 18, was given only house arrest and probation for the shooting after spending a year behind bars. But he was jailed again in January after his probation officer found two bags of weed and a loaded pistol in a closet at his home. The other shooter that night, Jamariquai Young, 17, also received probation.
The Spot, a popular Caribbean food restaurant on Northwest Seventh Avenue and 64th Street that morphed into a teen club at night, has since been demolished. The owner’s 13-year-old daughter was one of the victims.
On Sunday night in Fort Myers kids were celebrating what had been advertised as a swimsuit glow party. The Evans Avenue club is known to celebrate “Girls Gone Wild” type theme parties. Club owners said there was armed security in and outside the nightclub. The shooting broke out after the club had closed.
Of the 19 people shot, two were killed. One of the dead is Stef’An Strawder, 18, who was going to be a senior this season at Lehigh Senior High School and who the Fort Myers News-Press had picked as one of three finalists for basketball player of the year.
Also killed was Sean Archilles, a 14-year-old at Royal Palm Exceptional School student. The News-Press reported that Royal Palm School principal Robert Morretti called Sean “a friend to all,” and said he “will be deeply missed.”
“Sean was the kind of young man who could brighten any room with his outgoing personality and contagious smile,” Morretti said. “He was a friend to all and will be deeply missed by his Royal Palm family.”