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Fort Pierce police say shootings that left 3 dead, 1 injured 'like a puzzle'

'Right now there is no sense to this,' Maj. Mike Santiago says
Posted at 2:49 PM, May 20, 2024

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Police in Fort Pierce described a Saturday incident that resulted in three people dead and another injured as a "very dynamic case" that was in its early stages.

Maj. Michael Santiago held a Monday afternoon news conference to give the latest details on the investigation of the case, which also involved officers shooting and killing a suspect.

Santiago used phrases to describe the case as "fast-moving," "complex" and "multi-faceted."

"Right now, there is no sense to this," Santiago said. "We have no motive. We don't understand it."

Police said this all started shortly after 11 a.m. Saturday when officers responded to "multiple 911 calls" for two incidents. One case involved a man with a gunshot wound at the 1400 block of 23rd Street. The second call came in almost simultaneously and involved the theft of a vehicle that occurred in the 2100 block of Avenue N.

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When officers arrived at one of the scenes, they found a man suffering from gunshot wounds. Police said the officers then heard additional gunshots fired just northwest of their location.

Officers then headed in that direction and heard "another volley" of shots further west and eventually encountered an armed man at the 1600 block of N 25th Street.

Santiago said there was an exchange of gunfire between officers and the armed man, later identified as Bernard Smith, 28, which subsequently resulted in Smith's death.
 
Later, police began to receive additional information that there were additional gunshot victims within a four-block radius — one victim was at the 1600 block of Northwest 24th Street and the other was at the 2400 block of Avenue P.

"What we're looking at right now is trying to determine if all of these incidents are connected," Santiago said. "What we can definitively say is that car theft was connected to the officer-involved shooting. We know that was the same subject (Smith) of the car theft, but right now we're trying to determine if the other incidents are in fact involved."

Fort Pierce police say the shootings on May 18, 2024, all took place in about 30 minutes at multiple locations and within a half-mile radius.
Fort Pierce police say the shootings on May 18, 2024, all took place in about 30 minutes at multiple locations and within a half-mile radius.

Santiago said Smith had a "violent history" in his past.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC), Smith was convicted of three felonies before this incident, including a robbery in 2013, a felony gun charge in 2020 and battery on another inmate in 2022.

FDC records show Smith was released this past March after spending less than a year in prison for his felony gun possession conviction. Smith was originally sentenced to three years for that conviction.

Police identified the victims found dead in the homes as Devin Bradley, 24, and Roosevelt Benjamin, 59. The man who survived the shootings was identified as Craig Robinson, 50.

Officers said Bradley was an employee of the police department's IT department.

Family members said Sunday that Benjamin worked with the U.S. Postal Service for more than 30 years.

Robinson remains in serious condition at HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital, but police said he is currently unable to speak to officers to help in the case.

Santiago said three officers are on administrative leave.

"Multiple officers fired their firearms," Santiago said.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the officer-involved shooting. The Fort Pierce Police Department is investigating the other cases.

"We're exploring every single avenue in order to identify what actually transpired on Saturday," Santiago said. "The community has been very helpful."

The city of Fort Pierce released the following statement on the case:

"We are deeply saddened by the tragic shooting that took place this past weekend, resulting in the loss of several precious lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and everyone affected by this senseless act of violence.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to those grieving and assure our community that we stand united in this time of sorrow. In the face of this tragedy, we call upon all residents to come together as a community, offering support and compassion to one another.

Together, we are stronger. Together, we will heal."