As the country celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend, one Treasure Coast community will have a tough memory on its mind. This marks one year since the fatal shooting at an MLK event at Ilous Ellis Park in Fort Pierce.
It was a tragic and chaotic scene when what should have been a peaceful, joyful celebration at an MLK car show turned tragic.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said eight people were shot in what they called a dispute between two rival gangs. The shooting claimed the life of Nikkitia Bryant, 29, who was spending the day with her daughter.
One year later, community leaders said they’ve seen progress toward healing.
“I’m seeing a lot of kids who want to be loved,” Will Armstead, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of St. Lucie County, said. “They want to be with good caring adults and most of all they want to be in a good, safe environment.”
The organization serves more than 2,000 children across 25 locations.
Armstead said since the shooting that he’s seen relationships grow stronger between organizations like his and law enforcement.
“There’s been more of an awareness with the law enforcement agencies and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of St. Lucie County to make sure that we are all on the same page, doing the right thing for our kids and keeping them in safe environments,” Armstead said.
He praised the Fort Pierce Police Department for their assistance.
“Since that shooting, she (Fort Pierce Police Chief Diane Hobley-Burney) has someone from her agency on my board now that is in charge of the safety aspect of our clubs, and that’s been a big help,” Armstead said.
Fort Pierce police said they will have extra patrols out for the holiday weekend to make sure everyone not only stays safe but feels safe.
“We are actually putting out a supplemental patrol and working with the sheriff’s office to patrol the parks and other areas where events might be taking place just to keep everybody safe,” Lt. James Grecco said. “There’s gonna be extra units put out specifically to keep an eye out for events and to make sure everything stays orderly, and it’s just extra bodies on the road to supplement the normal patrol that’s out there.”
He said officers and deputies will be out along the route for Monday’s parade as they have in previous years, which starts at 10 a.m. at Avenue I and N 25
The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office made an arrest in last year’s shooting case but they are still looking for more potential suspects who were involved. Anyone who can recall something about the shooting that might help in the case is urged to contact the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office.