A television journalist and a nine-year-old girl have been shot dead in the US state of Florida, allegedly by the same gunman who had killed a woman in the area earlier in the day, authorities say.
The 19-year-old suspect is accused of fatally shooting a 20-year-old woman on Wednesday in Pine Hills, a suburb west of Orlando in central Florida.
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About five hours later, he returned to the crime scene and allegedly opened fire on a Spectrum News 13 camera operator and a reporter as they stood near their vehicle, killing one journalist and wounding another, police said.
Police said he then allegedly entered a nearby home and shot a woman and her nine-year-old daughter in the latest mass shooting in the United States.
Spectrum News 13 identified the slain reporter on Thursday as 24-year-old Dylan Lyons. “He took his job very seriously,” Spectrum Sports 360 reporter Josh Miller told the news outlet. “He loved his career. He loved what he did.”
Photographer Jesse Walden was also wounded.
Following the shooting death of a member of our Spectrum News 13 crew, our parent company, Charter Communications, has released a statement. pic.twitter.com/oiL4nqLT3E
— Spectrum News 13 (@MyNews13) February 23, 2023
“No one in our community – not a mother, not a nine-year-old child and certainly not news professionals – should become victims of gun violence,” Orange County Sheriff John Mina said.
He identified the suspect as Keith Melvin Moses, who he said had been taken into custody.
The sheriff added the attacker knew the 20-year-old victim but did not have any known ties to those shot later in the day.
The suspect has been charged with first-degree murder for the first victim and further charges are expected soon in the other shootings, Mina said.
The sheriff added that Moses’s criminal record includes gun charges, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and grand theft offences.
It was not immediately clear if two of the victims were targeted because they were journalists, but Mina noted that their vehicle lacked the logos and markings typically seen on news vehicles.
Shootings involving multiple victims are strikingly common in the United States.
So far in 2023, the Gun Violence Archive has tracked 84 mass shootings, which are defined as having four or more victims.
Since 2020, there have been more than 600 mass shootings in the country every year with 647 recorded in 2022, according to the tracker. Between 2015 and 2018, mass shootings hovered above 300 a year, increasing to 417 in 2019.
Recent attacks have included the fatal shooting of 11 people at a Lunar New Year’s celebration in California in January, which was followed days later by another shooting in the same state in which seven people were killed as well as the killing of three students at Michigan State University on February 13.
“Please, please, say a prayer tonight for our co-worker who is in critical condition, and while you’re at it, please say a prayer for every victim of gun violence in this country,” Spectrum 13’s Celeste Springer said during her live on-air report.
The National Press Club called the latest attack “another tragic reminder that journalism is a dangerous business and that criminals and those that are the subject of reporting can become violent toward reporters who are doing their jobs”.
The Committee to Protect Journalists also said it was “appalled” by the shooting.
“It is deeply disturbing that a journalist was killed while covering the gun violence that has become a sickening reality of living in the United States,” the watchdog’s US and Canadian programme coordinator, Katherine Jacobsen, said in a statement. “Reporters must be able to cover the news without having to fear for their lives.”
Our hearts go out to the family of the journalist killed today and the crew member injured in Orange County, Florida, as well as the whole Spectrum News team.
— Karine Jean-Pierre (@PressSec) February 23, 2023
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre posted a message of condolence on Twitter.
“Our hearts go out to the family of the journalist killed today and the crew member injured in Orange County, Florida, as well as the whole Spectrum News team,” she said. “Too many lives are being ripped apart by gun violence.”