Three injured in Park shooting

caines | 9/13/2012, 5:30 a.m.

Will Optimist Club football program be forced to shut down?

It was midway through the third quarter on Friday evening at Miamis sparkling new Gibson Park [401 NW 12th St.] in Overtown when shots rang out causing children, coaches, parents and fans to scatter. What had started out as an exciting night for over 300 people set to watch a matchup between the Overtown Community Optimist Club and the Northwestern Boys & Girls Club, ended up in fear and confusion. However, it could have been much worse. According to City of Miami police, three victims two adults and one teenager were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital after being hit by stray bullets. Fortunately, none of their injuries were life threatening. Allegedly there is a person of interest that has been identified but no arrests have been made. Many of our parents say they have seen the person responsible for the shooting before and that he does not live in Overtown, said Emanuel Pops Washington, 54, executive director of the Overtown Community Optimist Club. Everybody knows everyone here. We hear that he is part of a gang and that he migrates all over the County. It seems he got into a beef with someone earlier in the week and then ran into the same person at the park. An altercation occurred and he began shooting. But bullets do not have eyes. Play will continue with added police presence Washington says there have been several meetings with individuals including: key City of Miami police officials, M-DC Deputy Mayor Russell Benford and CRA Executive Director Clarence Woods. City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones has also pledged to push through legislation that would make it a crime for unauthorized citizens to possess guns in City parks and playgrounds a move that was thwarted in 2011 when the State Legislature, bowing to NRA pressure, passed a gun law that basically prohibited the City from passing related laws. Woods says preventive steps are already in place. We are going to do whatever is necessary to make sure this doesnt happen in Overtown again, Woods said. It doesnt matter if things like this are intentional or accidental we have to protect our children. We have to let criminal elements understand that there will be no tolerance for gunfire at our games and in our parks. Both Woods and Washington say they have heard from a number of parents all have said they will not let thugs and gangs deter them from bringing their children to the park for wholesome activities. We have almost 600 kids involved in constructive activities everyday and our parents want this to continue, Washington said. They [parents] are more angry about people saying we should cancel our remaining home games. Theres no fear in their hearts. Its not Overtowns folks that are responsible for this shooting. Its outside folks coming into our home. Were going to put a rein on this and not allow it to escalate. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com