Hollywood Beach Mass Shooting: Police Nab Prime Suspect in Memorial Day Violence | Miami New Times


Details Emerge on Who Triggered Hollywood Beach Mass Shooting

Police have nabbed the suspect who they claim was the first to pull a gun in the Hollywood Beach mass shooting on Memorial Day.
Lionel JeanCharles Jr. is escorted in handcuffs to a police car outside the Hollywood Police Department on June 5, 2023.
Lionel JeanCharles Jr. is escorted in handcuffs to a police car outside the Hollywood Police Department on June 5, 2023. Photo by Jesse Fraga
Share this:
An 18-year-old Broward County man arrested yesterday was allegedly the first one to whip out a gun in the mass shooting that injured nine people, including a one-year-old child, at Hollywood Beach on Memorial Day.

Lionel JeanCharles Jr. was arrested June 5 and processed at the Hollywood Police Department at about 1:30 p.m. before officers escorted him in handcuffs two hours later to the Broward County Main Jail, according to police. He faces one count of first-degree attempted murder and multiple counts of attempted second-degree murder.

The May 29 melee left the idyllic Broward County shoreline spattered with blood as dozens of terrified tourists and beachgoers ran for cover. Four minors, including the one-year-old, who has since been released from the hospital, were among those injured.

Police reports obtained by New Times detail witness accounts of how JeanCharles and two members of his group, a 15-year-old and 16-year-old, allegedly opened fire along the Hollywood Broadwalk after approaching another group just before 7 p.m.

A police affidavit says that a witness, who was detained shortly after fleeing the scene, confirmed JeanCharles was the first person to pull out a firearm, shooting one victim in the chest. According to the affidavit, JeanCharles and the two juvenile suspects proceeded to fire rounds off at the other group and into the fleeing crowd.

"The witness indicated the incident started as a verbal argument between both groups and escalated to a physical fight. A black male known to him as 'L.J.' was the first to produce a handgun and shot Victim 1 and continued firing indiscriminately at Group 2," the affidavit alleges, identifying "L.J." as Lionel JeanCharles Jr.

At a June 5 press conference, Hollywood police said that nearly all of the victims are believed to have been bystanders not involved in the altercation. Fire rescue and "good samaritans" helped those injured on scene, according to Hollywood officer and department spokesperson Christian Lata. Lata said one victim remained hospitalized as of yesterday evening.

"They were just victims that were walking around and ended up getting shot by these guys that were frivolously shooting," Lata said.

After opening fire, the three alleged shooters fled westbound on Minnesota Street and then northbound on North Ocean Drive, according to the affidavit. They convened around an apartment complex a few blocks from the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, but fled again after being confronted by a tenant, police say. Officers later recovered three firearms from the vicinity, including a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield .380 handgun discarded in a bush.

JeanCharles was seen on video footage removing his bright yellow sweatshirt and discarding it in foliage near Cleveland Street, police say. A witness statement described him as a current or former Hallandale High School student.

Detectives say they verified JeanCharles and the two juvenile shooters' identities by carrying out interviews at schools in the Hallandale and West Park communities where they reside, and by following up on tips that flowed in after the Hollywood Police Department released photos of the suspects.

On Saturday, June 3, the fifteen-year-old alleged shooter was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force in cooperation with the Hollywood Police Department. The following day, the sixteen-year-old was taken into custody. JeanCharles was then booked on the afternoon of June 5.

The affidavit alleges that the trio "operated in conjunction with each other and their intent was to murder Victim 1," the victim shot in the chest, "along with other members of Group 2."

Police say JeanCharles and the two other alleged shooters will face the same charges: one count of attempted first-degree murder, eight counts of attempted second-degree murder, and a count of illegally carrying a concealed firearm.

Lata said it's unclear whether the juveniles will be charged as adults.

Update published 7:35 p.m. 6/8/2023: Those visiting Hollywood Beach may notice increased police, security, and warning signage as the city ratchets up safety measures in the wake of the Memorial Day mass shooting.

"We are committed to doing everything we can to make sure the shooting that occurred on Memorial Day is something that people will never experience again on our beach," Hollywood Police Chief Chris O’Brien said in a press release.

The notice comes three days after the department arrested the final suspect from a trio of alleged shooters who police say opened fire along the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, injuring nine victims ranging in age from one to 65 years old.

The Hollywood Police Department plans to deploy various vehicles and foot patrol at peak crowd times, "to cover larger areas of our beach and Broadwalk in the most efficient manner," O’Brien states.

Additionally, the parking division and code enforcement department will be placed at a "central beach command post," and monitored license plate readers will be deployed citywide "to bolster crime prevention, detection, and investigation," according to the statement.
KEEP NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls. Make a one-time donation today for as little as $1.