By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- The combination of alcohol, drugs and romantic entanglements led to gunfire and six injuries over Easter weekend and the trend must not continue, said local law enforcement.
In a press conference on April 1, Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar asked the community to help law enforcement by cooperating with the ongoing investigations of the three shooting events that occurred last weekend, two of which in Gifford are thought to be related.
The largest incident happened on the evening of March 31 in front of Smith's Grocery store within a group of more than 200 people, and is thought to have been related to a drive-by shooting on March 30 in front of Shake Your Booty nightclub, law enforcement officials said.
The third shooting is a homicide investigation and although no one has been charged, detectives are watching a person of interest in the case, the sheriff said.
While there is overwhelming physical evidence to charge in the three shootings and suspects, witnesses and victims are being asked to step up and assist Indian River County Sheriff's detectives in wrapping up the cases, Sheriff Loar said.
"There will be arrests coming," he said.
The Rev. Benny Rhyant, president of the Indian River County Pastors' Association, called for the community to be involved, but not just when a problem occurs.
He said he wants members of the Gifford community to stop coming up with excuses and work together with law enforcement to prevent things like this from happening in the future.
"Try to find a sober solution, not just react emotionally," the Rev. Rhyant said.
The first shooting occurred on March 30 in the early morning hours in Vero Beach. Two men, thought to be brothers or step-brothers, were involved in an altercation that turned into a homicide.
The victim, John Ross, 29, was transported by emergency personnel to Indian River Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead on the scene. He was shot at least once, but no further details were released at press time.
Scott Collins, 24, is considered a person of interest in the case, but as of press time, had only been charged with possession of cocaine.
Five people were injured during the March 31 shooting, including a 1-year-old who was struck by glass. None of the people have been identified.
After a car show in Gifford, hundreds of people migrated to the vicinity of Smith's Grocery store. Sheriff Loar said two suspects from Fort Pierce had a fistfight with two young men from Gifford, which turned into a gunfight near the storefront.
The shooting is thought to have been a continuation of a verbal altercation and drive-by shooting at the Shake Your Booty nightclub on March 30.
Detectives believe the shootings involved relationships between a young lady and young men and possibly including drug or alcohol.
"A recipe for not a good night," Sheriff Loar said.
For more information about the Indian River County Sheriff's Office, visit www.ircsheriff.org.