By DAVID FISCHER and FREIDA FRISARO
A man riding in a car with his cousin shot and killed another passenger then returned to the same neighborhood near Orlando hours later and shot four more people, killing a journalist covering the original shooting and a 9-year-old girl, Florida police and witnesses said.
Orange County Sheriff John Mina characterized the shootings Wednesday as random acts of violence. Mina said during a news conference that 19-year-old Keith Melvin Moses has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the initial shooting that killed Nathacha Augustin, 38, and that “numerous more charges” would follow.
Spectrum News 13 identified the slain reporter as Dylan Lyons. Photographer Jesse Walden was also wounded. Mina said Walden has been talking to investigators while being treated at a hospital.
The two were in an unmarked news vehicle on Wednesday afternoon covering the first homicide when a man approached and shot them, Mina said. The man then went to a nearby home where he fatally shot T’yonna Major and critically wounded the girl’s mother. Officials have not released the mother’s name.
Mina said Thursday that investigators do not know the motive for any of the shootings. He said Moses is a known gang member but that the shootings didn’t appear to be gang-related. It was not clear if Moses knew that two of the victims were journalists and Mina noted that their vehicle didn’t look like a typical news van or feature the station’s logo.
The sheriff said when deputies arrested Moses they seized a Glock semiautomatic weapon that “was still hot to the touch, meaning it had just been fired, and there were no more rounds.”
Body camera footage released by the sheriff’s office shows Moses apparently resisting arrest. After deputies take him to the ground, Moses repeatedly yells that he can’t breathe and that deputies are killing him, according to the video. Moses complained he was hurt and was taken to a hospital where he attacked medical staff, Mina said. He has since refused to speak with detectives.
The Office of the Public Defender for Orange and Osceola counties, which is representing Moses, declined to comment.
A man who called 911 after Augustin was shot told investigators that he was driving around smoking cannabis with her when he spotted Moses walking along a road. He said Moses “seemed down” so he offered him a ride, according to an arrest affidavit. Moses climbed into the backseat, behind Augustin, and about 30 seconds later the driver said he “heard a loud bang” and saw blood on Augustin’s face.
He said he stopped and Moses fled. The driver called 911.
He told investigators that Moses and Augustin didn’t know each other and that he didn’t hear the two exchange any words before the shot was fired.
Mina said Thursday that the driver and Moses are cousins.
Deputies first went to the Pine Hills area, just northwest of Orlando, at around 11 a.m. Wednesday following reports that a woman had been shot. About five hours later, 911 calls began coming in from the same area, the sheriff said. Police found the journalists who had been shot being helped by a news crew from another station, WFTV.
“I want to acknowledge the brave WFTV news crew who was there and witnessed the shooting and rendered aid to the victims until our deputies arrived,” Mina said.
Lyons was born and raised in Philadelphia, and graduated from the University of Central Florida, the station said. Before joining Spectrum News, he worked for a station in Gainesville.
“(Lyons) took his job very seriously. He loved his career. He loved what he did,” said Spectrum Sports 360 reporter and friend Josh Miller. “He loved the community, telling the stories of people, reporting on the news, and he was just passionate about what he did.”
Rachel Lyons, the reporter’s older sister, is raising money for his funeral via GoFundMe. She wrote that Lyons would have turned 25 in March. He is also survived by his parents and fiancée.
In a recorded message sent to parents Thursday, Principal Latonya Smothers at Pine Hill Elementary School, where T’yonna was a student, said grief counselors would be on campus for staff or students dealing with the death.
“She was a kind and beautiful young girl with an infectious smile. She will be missed dearly,” Smothers said.
State Attorney Monique H. Worrell said at the news conference Thursday that her office had received multiple calls asking why Moses was not in custody from previous offenses.
“This individual’s only adult offense was a possession of marijuana, 4.6 grams of marijuana, that my office did not charge because when you have a quantity that low, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement does not test the substance, and that means the state’s attorneys office cannot prove the case,” she said.
Worrell said she was prohibited by Florida law from discussing any juvenile charges Moses might have faced. Earlier in the news conference, Mina said Moses had faced at least two gun-related charges as a juvenile, including possession of a firearm by a minor and armed robbery.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said “our hearts go out” to the families of those killed in yesterday’s shooting
“Too many lives are being ripped apart by gun violence,” she said. “The president continues to call on Congress to act on gun safety, and for state officials to take action at the state level.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t publicly commented on Wednesday’s shooting. Earlier this week, the Republican governor and likely 2024 presidential candidate made stops in three major Democratic metro areas — New York, Philadelphia and Chicago — to extol tough-on-crime laws that he has signed in Florida and to criticize “woke” culture and anti-police sentiment.
In recent months, DeSantis has expressed support for constitutional carry legislation, which would eliminate the requirement for concealed weapons permits in Florida. The phrase “constitutional carry” refers to the view that the right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment negates any need for a permit or license to carry a gun in public, either openly or concealed.
Worldwide, 40 journalists were reported killed last year, plus another two this year before Wednesday, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. One of those was in the U.S.
Jeff German, who covered politics and corruption for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, was found dead outside his home in September after being stabbed multiple times. Former Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles, who had been a frequent subject of German’s reporting, has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge.
In 2015, Virginia reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were shot and killed during their live TV broadcast for CBS affiliate WDBJ7. The gunman, a former reporter for the TV station, killed himself hours later.
Frisaro reported from Fort Lauderdale, Fischer reported from Miami; Associated Press writer Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles and Curt Anderson in Miami contributed to this report.