At least nine people were injured when gunfire erupted between two groups near a Hollywood, Florida beach on Monday in a shootout that sent dozens of panicked beachgoers fleeing or taking cover Monday night, officials said.
Deanna Bettineschi, a spokeswoman for the Hollywood Police Department, said at a news conference Monday evening that police responded to reports of shots fired near the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, about 20 miles north of Miami, in the evening.
When police arrived, they found several people with gunshot wounds and started to render aid, Ms Bettineschi said. The victims were taken to area hospitals, including a children’s hospital.
Details of the victims remained unclear on Monday night with several reports from police and hospital. A spokeswoman for Memorial Healthcare System in Hollywood, Florida, said in an email that six adults and three children were among the victims, and all were in stable condition on Monday evening.
In a second press conference on Monday evening, Ms Bettineschi said four children, aged between 1 and 17, were injured along with five adults, aged between 25 and 65. Ms Bettineschi said one victim underwent surgery on Monday night and the other eight victims were in stable condition.
It’s unclear what led to the shooting or how many people were involved in the confrontation.
« There was a dispute between two different groups, and that’s when the shooting happened, » Ms Bettineschi said during the initial press conference.
A person of interest was in custody Monday night and police were looking for another, he added.
The incident was one of the latest cases of gun violence in the United States, with shootings taking place in common places such as schools, shopping malls, dance halls, banks and workplaces.
Monday’s shooting took place in a busy area along Hollywood Beach, surrounded by bars, restaurants and hotels and where crowds had flocked during the Memorial Day holiday. Videos circulating on social media around the time of the shooting they show some people hiding for cover while others flee the waterfront area.
Other videos showed police officers and bystanders helping victims on or near the sand.
Ms Bettineschi said police believed some of the victims may have been bystanders involved in the altercation between the two groups.
Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy said in the second press conference Monday night that the « altercation » between the two groups was « completely unacceptable. »
« People come to enjoy a weekend getaway on the beach with their families, » Mr. Levy said. “To have people in complete and thoughtless disregard for public safety and having an altercation with guns in a public setting with thousands around them, is beyond reckless.”
Chief Chris O’Brien of the Hollywood Police Department said dozens of police officers were patrolling the area on Monday as thousands were expected to visit the beach during the holidays. Chief O’Brien asked witnesses to share video or any information about the shooting with police to help the investigation.
« We will leave no stone unturned, » Chief O’Brien said, adding that those involved « will be held accountable for their actions. »
Ms Bettineschi said police had set up an outreach center where witnesses could speak to investigators and where family members could receive information about the victims.