Fort Myers man arrested for shooting man in the face during Haitian celebration
Updated at 6:45 a.m.
Deputies have arrested Mohammed A. Roche, 18, of Fort Myers, in connection with this shooting. Roche is charged with aggravated battery with a firearm. Roche is going through the booking process at this time. His photograph is not yet available.
Update: 9:35 p.m.
Sunday ended in violence for local Haitian immigrants celebrating their home country’s independence.
Just a couple hundred yards away from a Haitian Flag Day celebration in Golden Gate Community Center on Sunday, a young man was shot in the face, according to Collier County Sheriff’s Office officials. The man was taken by medical helicopter to Lee Memorial Hospital at about 7:45 p.m., from the parking lot of a nearby shopping center.
Sheriff’s Office Lt. Drew Lee said the call came in at 6:27 p.m. from the park, which is just a stone’s throw from the Golden Gate substation of the Sheriff’s Office. Lee said the man, who has not yet been positively identified, was born in 1990, making him either 18 or 19 years old.
Lee said at about 8 p.m. that a couple of people had been detained for questioning. He described those people as “several witnesses and persons of interest.”
He said investigators are not actively looking for additional persons of interest, but noted that the investigation is ongoing.
“We’re still interviewing witnesses and trying to determine who was involved,” Lee said.
No motive had been identified by Sunday evening.
Marjure Richard, 42, said she arrived at the park with her children, hoping to sell water and Powerade to the festival-goers. Instead, she lost about $1,000 because the shooting drove everyone away from the park.
“It’s so embarrassing,” she said. “Why you got to kill your people? We came here to laugh and dance and this is what they get. When you bring your kids here and this is what they see, it’s a very bad example.”
If anything, Richard said, Collier County’s Haitian population should be in the news because of a joyous occasion like Haitian Flag Day, the equivalent of the American Fourth of July.
“We just heard ‘boom, boom.’ That’s all,” said Richard.
Other witnesses who were at the park said they heard two shots from the opposite side of the amphitheater. By Sunday night, a band was breaking down sound equipment and loading it into a van at that amphitheater. Collier sheriff’s deputies secured the crime scene with a perimeter of yellow tape around a small picnic shelter on the backside of the pavilion.
“We don’t know much, but we heard what happened after the shooting,” said Jean Volcy, 31, who sat on the amphitheater stage Sunday evening.
He said the scene at the festival was mayhem after the shots were fired. Everyone was running in different directions, trying to corral children away from where they heard the gun go off.
“Stuff like that — it’s not a good thing,” said Volcy. “What happens if the shot missed who you’re trying to shoot and hits somebody else?”
Before the shooting, people were streaming into the park, said Darline Herard, 23, paying to gain entry in spite of the rain that peppered the area with nearly 1.5 inches over the course of the day. After the shooting, she said, the party was over.
Lee said investigators believe the man was shot once, though witnesses have reported hearing two shots fired. However, he said, a different determination may be made by the medical professionals caring for the man.
He was taken via EMS transport to the Parkway Plaza, a shopping center about a half-mile from the park. There, sheriff’s deputies and fire and rescue personnel created a perimeter to allow a MedStar helicopter from Lee County to land.
Emergency workers were inside the EMS vehicle for about 20 minutes with the victim before taking him out on a stretcher and loading him into the helicopter.
Steve Doan, a taxi driver, said he was driving through the parking lot when it started.
“When I seen this all going on, I pulled over to this lady and said, what’s going on? Is a storm coming?” he said. “And they said, ‘We’re going to land the helicopter here.’”
While emergency workers were going in and out of the EMS vehicle, the victim on the stretcher could be seen moving his feet. When he was taken out and transferred to the helicopter, he had a neck brace stabilizing his head, he was shirtless and shoeless and a medical technician was administering air via a manual resuscitator, a bag used to ease the flow of air into and out of the lungs.
The man’s condition was not available Sunday night.