Miami Prosecutor Blames DeFede TV Investigation for Mass Shooting
Police are still looking for the connection between the two shootings.
But the prosecutor working on the January case -- a veteran of the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office -- says he believes the latest attack was spurred by a news story by reporter Jim DeFede that aired Thursday on CBS4. Based on a description by an anonymous source, it clearly showed the family's address and criticized witnesses for not coming forward. "It is my personal opinion that this [Sunday's] shooting was triggered by the DeFede piece," says Michael Von Zamft, an assistant state attorney. "Certainly that cannot be ruled out."
The first attack took place just before 10 p.m. January 23 on the corner of NW 70th Street and 15th Avenue. A group of more than 30 people -- many teenagers from nearby Northwestern High School -- was rolling dice in front of a small market when a man pulled out an assault rifle and ordered everyone to lie on the ground. He opened fire when people began running, and a second gunman hiding around the corner added to the carnage. Both Mills and Gloster were shot in the head and died on the spot.
Months of appeals from police and community leaders -- including the Rev. Al Sharpton, who made a special appearance -- haven't led to an arrest in the case.
That's where DeFede's story comes in. The former New Times and Miami Herald columnist, now an Emmy-winning television personality, reported last Thursday in a five-minute broadcast about a possible motive in the January assault.
His piece claimed police have linked that shooting to Gloster, the 18-year-old victim. Gloster had allegedly killed a 21-year-old aspiring rapper named Neo Brown a few days earlier, on Martin Luther King Day. According to DeFede's account, Brown's friends shot up the craps game and killed Gloster as revenge.
DeFede included several quotes from a woman who claimed to have been with Neo Brown when he was murdered. The woman, whom DeFede interviewed on camera anonymously without showing her face, first said Gloster was the killer. Later in the piece, she backtracked and said she was not positive who shot Brown.
The report also included an interview with victim Mills's mother, Lasonya, in front of her home. Her address was visible in at least one shot. Lasonya Mills criticized her neighbors for not coming forward with more information and the police for not keeping her informed in the case. She predicted there "will be more shootings."
Von Zamft, an assistant state attorney who has prosecuted some of the area's most high-profile murders, believes DeFede made the family a target by basing his story on the anonymous woman's account. He also criticizes the newsman's decision to link Brandon Mills's family to the source's claims by including them in the same story, and for showing Lasonya Mills's face.
In Von Zamft's view, airing a controversial but unproven theory about the attacks, coupled with Lasonya Mills's interview in front of her home, led to the retaliatory attack Sunday. He carefully chooses his words and encourages the community not to be intimidated: "There are people out there who know who did this shooting," he says. "But we're talking here about the community at large not wanting to be branded a snitch. People shouldn't want to watch people get shot and dying and not help the police."
Police haven't released much information about the latest attack, except that they're looking for a gray or silver Monte Carlo and two suspects who might be black males. The lead detective didn't return calls to comment about Von Zamft's statements. All five victims in the latest shooting have been treated and released from the hospital.
When contacted by New Times, DeFede declined to comment. He promised to call back later.
A spokesman from CBS4 just called to refer us to a column DeFede has posted online responding to the latest attacks.
DeFede doesn't directly address Von Zamft's statements, though he does say "the shooting may very well have been prompted by my story."