Southern States Violent Crime

Ex-Gym Employee Shoots 2 in Florida, Kills Self

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — A former gym employee opened fire inside the facility on Saturday, critically wounding a manager and another person before he killed himself, officials said.

The manager later died at a hospital after the shooting at the Equinox gym, a law enforcement official who was brief on the investigation told The Associated Press. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

The shooting happened about 1 p.m. at the upscale mall, the Shops at Merrick Park. Shoppers, diners at mall restaurants and people in workout gear ran to safety or took cover after reports of gunfire.

“Five gunshots,” Ovi Viera, who was washing his hands in the men’s locker room, told The Miami Herald . “It was too loud for it to have been a weight dropping. Within two seconds, people just started running out.”

Miami-Dade police said the second victim was in critical condition at a hospital. Police have not released the names of the shooter and victims.

“It appears to be an ex-employee, managerial dispute that triggered this shooting,” Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta said.

The mall is within a couple miles of the University of Miami campus. Former Miami baseball standout Javy Rodriguez said he was inside the gym and working out when the shots started, writing on Facebook that he ran to safety. He also helped others get out of the building.

“Equinox workers did an amazing job of calmly … getting the rest out of there,” Rodriguez said.

At Yard House, a restaurant inside the mall, many patrons were outside dining or waiting for their lunches when police told restaurant employees to get everyone inside.

“So that’s exactly what we did,” said Tim Hartog, the restaurant’s general manager. “It was never chaotic. We’re trained to do these things.”

Employees were allowed to clean and shut down the restaurant for the day, and were told to go home afterward. Hartog said the mall was closed until Sunday.

More than a dozen police cars and firetrucks were outside the mall for hours after the shooting. Employees of other stores and restaurants were seen leaving about an hour after the shooting, once the scene was secure.

Equinox said in a statement that is was working with authorities.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this terrible tragedy. Out of respect for them and our entire Equinox family, we will refrain from commenting further until it is appropriate to do so,” the statement said.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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