FORT MYERS, Fla. Two teenagers were killed and as many as 18 other people were wounded early on Monday in a shooting outside a party at a Florida nightclub that police in Fort Myers said was not an act of terror.
The latest burst of gun violence to wrack the state this summer occurred around 12:30 a.m. EDT (0430 GMT) in the parking lot of Club Blu, which was hosting an event open to teenagers, the Fort Myers Police Department said in a statement.
Police said Stef’An Strawder, an 18-year-old basketball star at a local high school, and Sean Archilles, 14, were killed. Two other people have potentially life-threatening injuries, local hospital officials said.
Although police said they did not know the motive for the shooting, they confirmed in a statement that “this incident is not an act of terror.”
Police said three people had been detained for questioning early on Monday, and the area around the club was deemed safe.
Area hospitals received 19 patients, ranging from 12 to 27 years old, from the nightclub shooting, said Lisa Sgarlata, chief administrative officer for Lee Memorial Hospital. An additional victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
Four patients remain hospitalized at Lee Memorial. Two have potentially life-threatening injuries and were in intensive care, Dr. Drew Mikulaschek said at a news conference.
The shooting came six weeks after a massacre at a nightclub in the Florida city of Orlando, where a lone gunman who sympathized with Islamist extremist groups killed 49 people in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Club Blu, located in a partially vacant strip mall about 150 miles southwest of Orlando in the Gulf Coast city of Fort Myers, was hosting a “swimsuit glow party” for people all ages, according to a flyer posted on Twitter by local television station WINK.
The nightclub said on its Facebook page that the shooting occurred when the venue was closing and parents were picking up their children.
“We tried to give the teens what we thought was a safe place to have a good time,” the nightclub said, adding that armed security guards were posted inside and outside the club. “It was not kids at the party that did this despicable act.”
Jean Archilles, the father of the 14-year-old killed, said his son loved sports, especially basketball.
“I don’t know where he was shot,” the 37-year-old father, who is originally from Haiti, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t know. Nothing I can explain.”
He said his son was the baby of his family, with three older brothers, and was born in Fort Myers.
Sean Archilles was due to enter eighth grade at Royal Palm Exceptional Center, while Strawder was to start his senior year at Lehigh Senior High School, according to the Lee County School District.
Strawder’s mother, Stephanie White, told the News-Press newspaper that her son was shot in his right shoulder as he walked out of the club and was pronounced dead at the hospital. His 19-year-old sister survived a gunshot wound in the leg, White said.
Police said shots were also fired at a nearby residence, where there was one minor injury.
In a video interview with local media, Syreeta Gary said her daughter and a friend ran for cover from the gunshots, seeking safety at a nearby apartment complex.
“Dodging bullets and running, dropping between cars, it’s ridiculous that these kids have to go through this,” Gary said in an interview posted on Twitter by a reporter for Fort Myers Fox affiliate WFTX. “They can’t enjoy themselves.”
Her daughter got out unscathed, but a bullet struck a friend in the leg, Gary said.
(Reporting Frank McGurty and Laila Kearney in New York, Mary Milliken in Los Angeles and Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida; Writing by Frank McGurty and Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Catherine Evans and Lisa Von Ahn)