CORAL GABLES, FLA. (WSVN) - A workplace dispute at an upscale shopping center in Coral Gables spiraled into gun violence, leaving three people dead, Saturday afternoon, police said.
According to Coral Gables Police, the shooting took place inside Equinox Gym at the Shops at Merrick Park. Investigators said the gunman fired off rounds inside the luxury gym, located at the corner of Laguna Street and San Lorenzo Avenue.
According to Miami-Dade Police, the shooter was identified as 33-year-old Abeku Wilson, who reportedly shot 35-year-old Janine Ackerman and 42-year-old Marios Hortis, before killing himself.
Hortis and Ackerman were airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center, where Ackerman later died from her injuries. Equinox Gym later confirmed the death of Hortis as well.
A woman who works nearby told 7News she heard the gunshots. “The first one took a second to sink in. The second, I was like, ‘This is gunfire,’” said Nicole Guzman.
The sounds sent dozens scrambling through the mall on a busy shopping day. “I didn’t know what it was, but I heard a series of, ‘pah, pah, pah, pah, pah, pah,’ and people all of a sudden around me started reacting and screaming,” said Vicki Diez, who was on her way into work when the shots rang out.
Officials said calls about the shooting began to come in just before 1 p.m. A security guard flagged down a police officer for help after reports of the incident.
Coral Gables and City of Miami Police responded to the scene, and shortly after, officials confirmed the scene had been secured. Miami-Dade Police also responded and has since taken over the investigation.
Miami-Dade Police said Wilson was fired, Saturday, due to workplace violence, and was escorted off the premises. He then returned to the gym and shot Ackerman, who was the general manager of the gym, and Hortis, another employee, multiple times before turning the gun on himself. Wilson was pronounced dead on the scene.
Moments after gunfire rang out, Guzman urged her work colleagues to take safety precautions. “All I told my whole staff was, ‘Everybody, close up the doors. Something’s going on,’” she said. “I see babies running. I see everybody running from that direction.”
“My legs froze,” said Diez. “At a certain moment, I didn’t know whether to walk to the right or walk to the left or just drop on the floor. There was a young guy next to me. He pretty much grabbed me by the arm and said, ‘Let’s go.’”
Investigators said the incident triggered the mall’s alarm system. Workers inside stores were forced into lockdown as police decked out in full tactical gear swarmed the area.
“The police stopped us in the middle of the street and said, ‘Get out and take shelter,’” said witness Dorine Henner.
Hours later, 7News cameras captured people from the gym outside of the hospital, devastated by the news.
Meanwhile, gym visitors were left grappling with the aftermath. “The staff is very professional. I’ve never seen any bickering among any of them, so it would be a surprise to me,” said Equinox member Tony Romero.
A spokesperson for Shops at Merrick Park said stores would remain closed on Saturday. “We are fully cooperating with the Coral Gables Police Department as they proceed with their investigation,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Equinox later released a statement that reads, “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 scene remained active on Saturday night, as police conducted their investigation. The mall reopened on Sunday but Equinox remained closed. The gym is expected to reopen on Monday.
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