What sparked mass shooting outside Miami rap show? A bloody gang feud, hearing reveals

When Miami gang members wanted to mount an ambush against their rivals, they didn’t have to work hard to find them. Their road map was a rap-show flier.

The gunmen who fired on the crowd outside El Mula banquet hall — killing three and wounding 20 — planned the attack after seeing their rivals advertise a rap show at the Northwest Miami-Dade event space last year, according to recent court testimony. The rivalry stemmed from two groups, one from a North Miami-Dade apartment complex known as the “Back Blues,” the other from one known as “The Bricks,” who had engaged in bloody tit for tat that culminated in shooters from three cars firing into the crowd.

The new details of the run-up to the shooting were detailed in a confession, played in court, from Davonte Barnes, the accused lookout charged in the mass shooting that shocked South Florida on May 30, 2021. It was one of several high-profile shootings at the start of that summer that led Miami-Dade police and other law enforcement agencies to launch a crackdown on feuding gangs and other violent criminals.

Killed in the El Mula shooting were Desmond Owens and Clayton Dillard III, both 26. Another victim, Shankquia Lechelle Peterson, 32, who is believed to have been an innocent bystander, later died at the hospital of her wounds.

The hearing was held over two days last week to decide whether there’s enough evidence to keep Barnes, 23, behind bars pending trial on three counts of murder and 20 counts of attempted murder. He’s pleaded not guilty, and his defense attorney has suggested that Barnes was goaded into confessing to being a lookout.

The hearing will continue next month, as Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Robert Watson reviews over eight hours of Barnes’ confession.

One defendant, so far

So far, Barnes is the only person charged in the shooting. Another suspect, Warneric Buckner, had been charged and accused of being one of the shooters — but prosecutors dropped the case after deciding that Miami-Dade homicide detectives violated his right to remain silent after he asked for an attorney.

READ MORE: Suspect in Miami club shooting cut loose. Prosecutors say police mishandled confession

Miami-Dade police and prosecutors say the investigation is still ongoing, and more arrests could happen eventually. Buckner has since been listed as a state witness.

Last week’s hearing marked the first time Miami-Dade police and prosecutors have publicly detailed the scope of the investigation into the mass shooting. In court, they identified a slew of other suspects, young men they say are affiliated with The Bricks, with street names such as “Savage,” “Gordo” and “O.G. Drop.”

Another of their associates mentioned, 19-year-old Antwon Streeter, was shot to death in Opa-locka on May 23, 2021. “Because of his death ... that was one of the reasons why the mass shooting occurred,” Miami-Dade Detective Alexandra Turnes, the lead investigator on the case, told the judge last week.

She testified that Owens, who was killed, was one of the intended targets, as was another victim, Johntrell “JRG Hatchett” Love, 21, who was shot in the head and survived. He was supposed to perform at El Mula, which was hosting a show for the release of an album by a rapper named ABMG Spitta, whose real name is Courtney Wilson; he was not injured in the shooting.

Another rapper, Antonio “FoePack” Jones, of Opa-locka, was also wounded in the foot outside the hall — and he was the primary target, the judge heard.

Confession played in court

It was Barnes who detailed to homicide detectives that his crew had driven to El Mula to find Jones. He agreed to speak without an attorney present.

In a roughly one-hour excerpt of his confession, Barnes said another man, known by the nickname Savage, had a long-running beef with Jones. “They want to get each other,” Barnes told Turnes and Detective Rich Raphael.

Devonte Barnes, the accused lookout for the mass shooting at El Mula banquet hall in May 2021, is shown during his confession at Miami-Dade police headquarters.
Devonte Barnes, the accused lookout for the mass shooting at El Mula banquet hall in May 2021, is shown during his confession at Miami-Dade police headquarters.

That day, Barnes, Savage and a group of other men met at the Cordoba Court apartments in Opa-Locka, a complex commonly called The Bricks, where they viewed the flier for the show. Barnes said he put the address into his phone GPS, and in at least four cars, they all drove to the hall, 7630 NW 186th St.

“Did you think there was going to be some type of retaliation,” Raphael asked.

“Of course,” Barnes said.

Barnes drove in a silver Nissan Altima, along with his cousin nicknamed “Drak,” and neither had weapons. But Barnes admitted that in front of El Mula, he and his cousin were looking for Jones, while his cousin was on the phone communicating with O.G. Drop.

“If you’re reporting back to Drak, what do you call that?” Raphael asked.

“Lookout,” Barnes admitted.

Miami-Dade Detective Alexandra Turnes points to an exhibit held by prosecutor Michael Von Zamft on Sept. 22, 2022. She testified during a hearing for Devonte Barnes, who is accused of taking part in a mass shooting at a Northwest Miami-Dade banquet hall on May 30, 2021.
Miami-Dade Detective Alexandra Turnes points to an exhibit held by prosecutor Michael Von Zamft on Sept. 22, 2022. She testified during a hearing for Devonte Barnes, who is accused of taking part in a mass shooting at a Northwest Miami-Dade banquet hall on May 30, 2021.

Video surveillance showed the cars circling El Mula. Three of the shooters were in a stolen Nissan Pathfinder, which had parked near a dentist’s office. Prosecutors Michael Von Zamft and Chris Flanagan showed the judge video from the office’s surveillance system that showed the masked men getting out of the car to pepper the front of El Mula.

Shooters also emerged from a Cadillac and a Nissan Maxima. Another surveillance clip shows the crowd scattered in panic, as people crumpled to the ground wounded, puffs of dust exploding in the air from bullets hitting the walls.

The Pathfinder was later tracked via GPS, and discovered dumped in a canal. Investigators were able to trace the stolen SUV to the Cordoba apartments, in the days before shooting, where video surveillance showed Barnes cleaning the outside of the vehicle, according to testimony.

The cross examination

Barnes’ defense attorney, Robert Barrar, took issue with police’s handling of the case, accusing detectives of feeding him what to say, pointing out that in one early portion of the confession, the audio had malfunctioned.

“Am I correct he never used the term ‘lookout’ until you or Detective Raphael used that term?” Barrar asked Turnes.

“Correct,” Turnes said.

In all, 99 spent bullet casings were found at the scene — so many, that crime-scene technicians ran out of evidence markers and they “had to create their own,”’ the detective said.

Court documents have also revealed that casings from at least nine different guns were found on the scene. Casings matched those found at the scenes of other shootings and murders, Turnes testified, although none believed to have involved Barnes.