ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — More than half of the wounded survivors of a nightclub shooting in Fort Myers -- eight out of 12 injured -- have withdrawn their criminal complaints, potentially hindering the police investigation and prosecution, the city's police chief said.
Two young teenagers were killed in Monday's mass shooting.
Fort Myers interim Police Chief Dennis Eads said "it's not uncommon" for victims in the Fort Myers area to withdraw complaints and not press charges, because of a hesitance in the community to cooperate with police.
The reluctance of the victims in the Club Blu shooting to pursue charges is not a case of witness intimidation, Eads said.
At least one of the victims who withdrew the complaint was a teenager, and the teen's parent backed that choice, said Eads.
"It's pretty ridiculous, isn't it?" Eads said. "The person shot didn't want to do anything and person in charge of that person didn't want to do anything. It kind of blows me away."
The shooting happened in the parking lot of Club Blu, which was hosting a teen night.
Fourteen-year-old Sean Archilles and 18-year-old Stef'an Strawder were killed and a dozen were injured.
Eads said the shooting likely was gang-related. The shooter or shooters have not been arrested.
"I want to make sure we have everybody involved so we can get everybody at once. I think that would send the biggest message," he said.
At least two of the injured, both 14, remain in the hospital.
Pastor William Glover of Fort Myers called the lack of cooperation part of a "vicious cycle" between police and the community in Lee County.
"It grieves me. It doesn't surprise me," he said. "It speaks to the fear factor. There is a total loss of confidence that they will be protected from those who commit this crime. People are afraid. It is not rational to think that someone who is a victim of gun violence would protect the perpetrator but that's the dynamic at work."
He said that while he doesn't know the particulars about the Club Blu investigation, in the past, criminals have retaliated against victims and witnesses.
"There's culpability with the community and law enforcement," Glover said. "What certainly is true is the cumulative effect of a climate and environment, those who break the law those who commit murder are rarely put away."
Also on Friday, federal authorities arrested a 33-year-old woman in connection with the shooting. They charged Jazmin Challana Barron of Lee County with making false statements on an application when she bought a firearm, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a news release.
Authorities say on Feb. 20 she bought a MasterPiece Arms pistol from a gun dealer and gave a false address. The statement says the gun later was used in the Club Blu shooting and recovered near the scene. Officers also matched bullet casings found at the scene to the ones used in the pistol.
After the shooting, Barron told agents that the gun had been stolen, then said it hadn't been stolen.
Barron's first appearance in court was Friday and she was released on a $25,000 bond. It's unclear whether she's retained an attorney. If convicted on both counts, she could face 15 years in federal prison.
The case is being prosecuted as a part of a federal gun violence reduction strategy.