A gunman accused of killing a woman in the Orlando area returned to the same neighbourhood hours later and shot four more people, killing a journalist covering the original shooting and a 9-year-old child, Florida police said.
Spectrum News 13 identified the slain reporter on Thursday (US time) as Dylan Lyons. Photographer Jesse Walden was also wounded.
American TV reporter Dylan Lyons.Credit:Twitter – @DylanLyonsNews
The two were in an unmarked news vehicle on Wednesday afternoon covering the first homicide when a man approached and shot them, Orange County Sheriff John Mina said during a news conference. The man then went to a nearby home where he fatally shot T’yonna Major and critically wounded her mother. Officials have not yet released the name of the girl’s mother.
The sheriff said police have detained Keith Melvin Moses, 19, who they believe is responsible for all of the shootings.
Mina said police didn’t immediately know the motive for the shootings. He said Moses was acquainted with Nathacha Augustin, 38, who was the first victim, but did not appear to have a connection with any of the others. He said it was not clear if Moses knew that two of the people shot were journalists and noted their vehicle didn’t look like a typical news van or have the station’s logo on it.
It was not immediately known whether Moses has a lawyer who can speak on his behalf.
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 got into the vehicle directly behind Augustin and about 30 seconds later he “heard a loud bang” and saw blood on Augustin’s face.
He said he stopped and Moses left the vehicle. 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.
“I want to acknowledge what a horrible day this has been for our community and our media partners,” Mina told a room full of reporters. “No one in our community — not a mother, not a 9-year-old and certainly not news professionals — should become the victim of gun violence in our community.”
The sheriff was meeting with community leaders on Thursday morning, and was expected to provide more details about the case after that meeting.
On Wednesday morning, deputies responded to the Pine Hills area, just northwest of Orlando, after reports that a woman in her 20s was shot.
Lyons and Walden were shot hours later while covering that shooting, followed by the mother and daughter, according to police and witnesses. WFTV crews, who were also reporting on the morning shooting, tried to give medical aid to the Spectrum 13 journalists.
Mina said Moses has already been charged with first-degree murder for the initial victim, and charges are expected soon for the other four victims. Moses’ criminal history includes gun charges, as well as aggravated battery, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and grand theft offences, the sheriff said.
“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,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Twitter.
“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 journalist Celeste Springer said during her live on-air report Wednesday evening.
In a story published early Thursday, the station identified Lyons and Walden.
“[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.”
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.
Rachel Lyons, the reporter’s older sister, is raising money for his funeral in a GoFundMe account. She wrote that Lyons would have turned 25 in March. He is also survived by his parents and fiancée.
Worldwide, 40 journalists were reported killed last year, plus another two this year before Wednesday, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Only one of those was in the United States.
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 suspect, a former reporter for the TV station, died by suicide during the law enforcement search for him.
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