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Families frustrated as some homicides remain unsolved in Fort Pierce

Law enforcement has not made an arrest in 11 cases
Posted at 7:41 PM, Jan 23, 2023

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Despite an around-the-clock investigation, law enforcement officials in St. Lucie County still have not made an arrest in the deadly shooting in Fort Pierce a week ago.

As the makeshift memorial for last week’s homicide victim grows, so does the community concern, so does the community concern for finding the shooters.

Antonia Lezama knows the frustration.

She and her family are about to live through the fourth anniversary of her sister’s death.

Elizabeth Granados was shot and killed by a drive-by shooter in February 2019 in a crime that remains unsolved.

“We thought we would have it by now,” she said. “Definitely not a place you ever want to be in.”

Her family is not alone.

Elizabeth Granados
Elizabeth Granados

Contact 5 compiled numbers from the Gun Violence Archive, a national database of all shootings reported to police.

Of the 21 homicides in and around Fort Pierce in the past three years, law enforcement has not made an arrest in 11 of those cases.

That’s just 48% of cases where an accused criminal has been charged, Florida’s rate is 62%.

“I think it is not for a lack of effort by the law enforcement community up there,” Palm Beach County attorney Stuart Kaplan said.

Kaplan is also a former FBI agent once stationed in Fort Pierce.

Stuart Kaplan former FBI agent
Former FBI agent Stuart Kaplan explains why homicides remain unsolved.

Fort Pierce Police and The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to WPTV’s request for comment, but Kaplan said witnesses don’t always help cops.

“The problem that they are being confronted with is the fear of anybody coming forward and being retaliated against for cooperating with law enforcement.”

Last week’s shooting death of Nikkitia Bryant at a holiday celebration struck a nerve with Lezama.

Nikkitia Bryant, 29, was killed in a Jan. 16, 2023 shooting at Ilous Ellis Park in Fort Pierce.jpg
Nikkitia Bryant, 29, was killed in a Jan. 16, 2023 shooting at Ilous Ellis Park in Fort Pierce.

Both victims were mothers of young children and not the intended targets of their shooters.

“You try to understand how somebody could see something and not speak up,” she said. “Somebody’s family is torn apart, and they see that somebody’s family is torn apart, and they won’t speak up.”

Lezama believes the attention, and the sizeable law enforcement efforts in the Ellis Park shooting could lead to an arrest soon.

If that happens Lezama is hopeful jittery witnesses might come forward to help law enforcement crack unsolved homicides, including that of her own sister.