Florida shooting not terrorist attack - police

  • 26/07/2016
The scene outside the club where the shooting happened (Reuters)
The scene outside the club where the shooting happened (Reuters)

Florida police have three people in custody and are searching for additional suspects in a shooting outside a nightclub that left two teenagers dead and more than a dozen people wounded.

Police in Fort Myers, located on Florida's Gulf Coast, said terrorism was not a factor in the state's latest gun violence this (northern) summer, but provided no details about a possible motive or the individuals who were detained.

The shooting occurred shortly after 12:30am (local time) on Monday in the parking lot of Club Blu, which was hosting an event open to teenagers, the Fort Myers Police Department said.

Police said Stef'An Strawder, an 18-year-old high school basketball star, and Sean Archilles, 14, were killed. Two other people have potentially life-threatening injuries, hospital officials said.

"This was not a terrorist act," Fort Myers interim police chief Dennis Eads said at a news conference.

He said officers responding to the shooting found chaos at the scene.

"No one really knew what was going on or what happened," Eads said.

He said officers provided first aid to victims, bandaging some with tourniquets to stop bleeding. Paramedics took some victims to the hospital while others drove themselves.

At least 19 people, ranging from 12 to 27 years old, went to hospitals, said Lisa Sgarlata, chief administrative officer for Lee Memorial Hospital.

Three patients remained hospitalised at Lee Memorial as of Monday afternoon, two of whom were in critical condition.

The shooting came six weeks after a massacre at a nightclub in Orlando, in central Florida, where a gunman who sympathised with Islamist extremist groups killed 49 people in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

In the latest shooting, Club Blu, located in a partially vacant strip mall, was hosting a "swimsuit glow party" for people all ages, according to a flyer posted on Twitter by 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. The page later appeared to have been removed.

"We tried to give the teens what we thought was a safe place to have a good time," the nightclub's post said, adding that armed security guards were present inside and outside the club.

"It was not kids at the party that did this despicable act."

Jean Archilles, 37, the father of the 14-year-old killed, said his son loved sports, especially basketball.

"It happened for a reason. I don't know what the reason is," he said in a telephone interview, adding that he had not been told details about his son's death.

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 also were fired at a nearby residence, where there was one minor injury.

In a video interview, Syreeta Gary said her daughter and a friend ran for cover. Her daughter got out unscathed, but a bullet struck a friend in the leg.

"Dodging bullets and running, dropping between cars," Gary said in an interview posted on Twitter by a reporter for Fort Myers Fox affiliate WFTX.

"It's ridiculous that these kids have to go through this."

AAP