A shooting early Monday morning outside a nightclub in Fort Myers, Fla., killed at least two teenagers and injured at least 16 other people, with a 12-year-old reported to be among the wounded, according to authorities.
Another person was injured in a shooting about half a mile away that police said was related to the gunfire at the club, which said it was hosting a night for teens.
What touched off the gunfire was not immediately clear, but police said they did not believe the bloodshed was linked to terrorism. Investigators continue to look into the shooting to determine a motive, but they do not consider it an act of terror, said Capt. Jim Mulligan, a Fort Myers police spokesman.
Police said they detained three people as part of the investigation into the shooting at Club Blu, which occurred about 160 miles southwest of the Orlando nightclub where a gunman killed 49 people and injured dozens of others last month. The specter of that rampage just weeks earlier loomed large over the shooting in Fort Myers, as the gunman there had told police he had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
The gunfire in Fort Myers erupted in the parking lot of Club Blu at about 12:30 a.m., police said. It was the latest in a string of shootings that have rocked public places across the country. Those killed were identified as Sean Archilles, 14, and Ste’fan Strawder, 18.
A spokeswoman for Lee Memorial Hospital said that patients ranging in age from 12 to 27 began arriving about an hour after the shooting. The hospital treated 16 people in its trauma center and emergency room, Cheryl Garn, the hospital spokeswoman, wrote in an email.
She said that as of 10:15 a.m., four people remained at the hospital, two in critical condition and the other two in fair condition. Another person injured in the shooting was treated and released from another hospital, she said.
Some people left the club on their own to seek treatment at hospitals, while the rest were transported by Lee County Emergency Medical Services.
When officers arrived outside Club Blu, they found people with injuries that “ranged from minor to life threatening,” a spokesman said in a statement. While the shooting scene was still deemed “very active” in the hours that followed, police said they considered the area safe shortly after 5 a.m.
Police said two other areas were also related to the shooting. One was a home about half a mile north of Club Blu, where a person or people shot at the residence and vehicles, police said. A person there suffered a minor injury, officials said.
Three people were detained as part of the investigation, a police spokesman said. Two people were taken into custody for questioning, while a third was detained about six miles northeast of the club. The Fort Myers Police Department and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office were actively canvassing the area for others who may be involved in the shooting, authorities said.
In a posting on Facebook, the club said that parents were picking up their children when the shooting occurred. The message also said the club, which was closing when the shooting occurred, had armed security and other security measures inside and outside the club.
“We are deeply sorry for all involved,” the message said. “We tried to give the teens WHAT WE THOUGHT WAS A SAFE PLACE TO HAVE A GOOD TIME. Ages 12-17.”
The club added: “There was nothing more we could of done [as] you see it was not kids at the party that did this despicable act. Our condolences to all parties involved.
BREAKING: 2 dead at up to 17 hurt in overnight shooting at Club Blu in Fort Myers. Police searching for suspect now. pic.twitter.com/WQ49vmZs8v
— WINK News (@winknews) July 25, 2016
Syreeta Gary’s daughter almost got shot at Club Bleu. Her best friend wasn’t so lucky. pic.twitter.com/5A3bA1EfBy
— Malcolm Johnson (@Malcolmsmedia) July 25, 2016
Syreeta Gary told TV station Fox 4 that her daughter was at Club Blu when the first bullets started to fly.
“I just thank God that my daughter is okay, because she could have been shot,” Gary said. “Her dodging bullets and running and dropping between cars, it’s ridiculous that these kids have to go through this. They can’t enjoy themselves because you have other people that have criminal minds and they just want to terrorize things.”
Her daughter’s friend was shot in the leg, Gary told Fox 4.
“She wasn’t as lucky as my daughter,” the mother said.
A witness told Fox 4 reporters that someone in a black SUV shot at random toward homes along Parkway Street. Reporters counted at least 30 shell casings in the area, the TV station reported.
One woman said on Facebook Live that she was talking with friends in the parking lot of the apartment complex across the street from the club when she heard the gunshots begin and saw teenagers running toward them.
She described the bullets as “spraying nonstop.” Her group hid under a car, she said, and at one point, they started running. The woman said she saw someone who had been shot four or five times lying on the ground and watched another person get shot in the back.
The woman cried and repeatedly spoke of the age of the victims.
“Instead of getting school clothes and all that,” she said of the teens’ parents, “they’re making funeral arrangements.”
[This story has been updated.]