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SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Police are investigating a shooting and a crash in Kendall that left three people dead, including a Florida corrections officer, and injured at least five others following a graduation party.

According to Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez III, the drive-by shooting occurred in the parking lot of a strip mall in the area of Southwest 104th Street and 109th Court, at around 2:20 a.m, Sunday.

“This violence has to stop,” said Ramirez.

Ramirez said people had gathered outside, as a graduation party was wrapping up at a hookah lounge.

“One or maybe two vehicles pulled up and began to fire at the crowd,” he said.

A neighbor said the gunshots sounded like fireworks going off.

“It was very, very loud. It was to a point that it woke me up,” he said.

Ramirez said one of the deceased victims was a Florida State Corrections officer. She was later identified as Tyleisha Taylor.

Police said the other two victims died after they crashed into a wall at Miami Dade College Kendall Campus while trying to get away from the chaos. Whether they were passing by or part of the group in the parking lot remains unknown, but officers found a firearm inside the car.

The college wasn’t connected to the shooting, but it just happened to be across the street from the scene.

Investigators said the surviving victims transported themselves to the hospital. They are all expected to recover.

One of their cars was spotted outside Jackson South Medical Center with bullet holes all over it, the window has been blown out and there was blood dripping from the passenger side.

“It looks like a targeted shooting,” said Ramirez.

Taylor began working for the Florida Department of Corrections in January 2020.​

FDC Secretary Mark Inch issued a statement that reads in part, “We are devastated to learn a member of our FDC family, Officer Taylor, was killed in a fatal shooting. Our prayers are with her family as they navigate this unimaginable loss.”

“Our condolences go to her family and to those victims here on the scene,” said Ramirez.

A man at the scene said his brother was one of the victims in the car that crashed. He identified the victim as 18-year-old Kheem.

This latest shooting comes after Miami-Dade Police kicked off Operation Summer Heat, a 12-week program where police will work to reduce the gun violence that has been plaguing South Florida in recent weeks.

“It just has to stop,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. “We just need to move forward with common-sense gun reforms that make sure that criminals don’t have guns to make sure that our police have the capacity and to make sure we make investments in a future for these young people.”

When asked if South Florida is a safe place to be and if the operation will change anything, Ramirez said gun violence is not exclusively a problem in Miami-Dade County, but it’s a national issue.

“The question you gotta ask is, ‘Is America safe?’ and ‘What’s going on in American society?’ That’s, I think, the larger question we gotta see here, because this type of violence is not like it’s only happening here in Miami-Dade County,” he said. “What’s happening here is, this plague of gun violence, it’s happening throughout our country, throughout our youth, throughout our communities, and this is the new pandemic.”

7News cameras captured dozens of evidence markers on the ground and a K-9 unit sniffing for clues.

Nearby residents said they’re concerned with the amount of gun violence they’ve seen lately.

“It is pretty scary to know it’s coming around here,” said an area resident.

“That’s nothing new anymore,” said shopping plaza customer Elizabeth Roman. “There have been so many murders in the last month. Before people fought with their hands. They were angry; they fought with their hands.”

Ramirez said their current focus is on finding the killers.

“How much more can we show how dire this situation is? That’s why it requires all of us together,” he said. “There’s not just one remedy. It takes all of us. That’s why I will keep pushing that message.”

Investigators took down their crime scene tape just before 10 p.m. Businesses in the plaza reopened on Monday morning.

However, county officials by noon placed several civil violation notices in front of the hookah lounge. One cited “failure to maintain a building or structure in a safe condition.”

Police said they are looking for two cars they believe are tied to the scene of the shooting. One of them is a dark-colored vehicle, possibly a Chevy Malibu, and the other is a white Toyota Camry.

If you have any information about the shooting and have seen the cars that match the description police are looking for, contact investigators or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000.

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