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Miami Prosecutor Blames DeFede TV Investigation for Mass Shooting

Just before 5 p.m. this past Sunday, a Chevy Monte Carlo rolled up before a

squat, one-story house in Liberty City. Someone inside the car pulled out an AK-47 and

opened fire on a group of young men in the front yard, wounding five.

The drive-by was especially significant because it followed an even more violent

attack. The house that was strafed Sunday belongs to the family of Brandon

Mills, a 16-year-old who was killed along with an 18-year-old

acquaintance, Derrick Gloster, in January. An AK-47-wielding gunman fatally shot the

two and wounded seven more at a street corner craps game a few blocks from

Mills's home.

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. As of

this post, he hadn't responded.

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."


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