Police officers closed the Shops at Merrick Park in Coral Gables after a former Equinox Fitness Club employee shot at a gym manager and a trainer on Saturday, and killed himself.
Coral Gables Police Chief Edward J. Hudak said the former employee targeted the two victims after a managerial dispute at the luxury gym.
Former Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, a member of the gym, identified the gunman as Abeku Wilson, whom he described as respectful and an overall “great guy.” Actor Christian de la Fuente referred to Wilson as “my brother and trainer.”
“When I heard about the shooting, I really thought he was the victim,” said Marvin Henderson, who went to the University of Miami with him. “I am really having trouble accepting that he did this. He was just not that guy.”
Wilson, 33, was a former employee of the Biltmore Hotel’s fitness center in Coral Gables. His posts on Instagram show he was a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt, and the member of a local Mixed Martial Arts team. He also practiced Muay Thai and was a regular RX Muscle contestant.
“He was a good man, a loyal friend,” Michael De La Pava, one of Abeku’s best friends, wrote on Facebook.
Witnesses at Soul Cycle, the Villagio Restaurant and the Yard House reported hearing the gun shots fired at the second-floor gym about 1 p.m. A Coral Gables police officer was on the property and ran to the fitness center, according to Miami-Dade Detective Alvaro Zabaleta.
The officer saw “people running and subsequently was advised by mall security personnel that a shooting was in progress,” Coral Gables Police Officer Kelly Denham said in a statement.
Coral Gables and City of Miami police officers quickly surrounded the mall at 358 San Lorenzo Avenue, and “secured the situation within minutes,” Denham said.
The mall’s security issued an automated audio alert with a siren advising “emergency, evacuate or seek shelter.”
After the warning, the relaxing outdoor dining areas turned into people scrambling to get on the ground. Some hid under tables before running inside to the restaurants’ kitchens.
“This tragedy was contained within the business and no other shoppers visiting the mall were put in harm’s way,” Hudak said in a statement.
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SOURCE: ABC Local 10 News – Andrea Torres, Liane Morejon, Ian Margol, Andrew Perez