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Person of interest located in deadly mass shooting at Ilous Ellis Park in Fort Pierce

Frederick Johnson Jr., 27, now in custody
Frederick Lamar Johnson Jr., identified as a person of interest in a Jan. 16, 2023 deadly mass shooting at Ilous Park in Fort Pierce.jpg
Posted at 8:52 AM, Jan 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-18 16:33:33-05

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday they have located a person of interest in a deadly mass shooting that happened at Ilous Ellis Park in Fort Pierce on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Earlier in the day, Chief Deputy Brian Hester said detectives were searching for Frederick Johnson Jr., 27, of Fort Pierce, in connection with the shooting.

"[It] doesn't mean he's a suspect, doesn't mean he's not, just means we want to talk to him, and he had active felony warrants," Hester said.

Hester said Wednesday afternoon that Johnson turned himself in at the sheriff's office.

"He actually came and turned himself in very shortly after that broadcast," Hester said. "I'm not sure if he turned himself in on his own, but he was probably talked into it by family members and other friends that said this would probably be the best thing for you to do."

Hester said during an earlier news conference that they believed Johnson was present during the incident.

There was an active warrant for Johnson for felony violation of probation, which is what he was arrested on.

"The interesting thing is, you know, we were receiving phone calls, 'Hey, the person you're looking for, they're on Facebook live,'" Hester said. "So, we did receive video that showed him, and actually I looked at some that showed him turning right into the sheriff's office."

The sheriff's office said eight people were shot Monday during a holiday celebration at the park, located near Avenue M and 13th Street. According to Hester, the shooting was the result of a dispute between several people, some of whom are gang members.

"It wasn't a gang incident, two rival gangs that got into a beef there," Hester said. "We've determined that this was a dispute between two or more individuals that took place there are event. Some of those individuals that were involved in this dispute are documented gang members."

One of the victims, Nikkitia Bryant, 29, died from her injures at HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital.

Nikkitia Bryant, killed in shooting at Ilous Ellis Park in Fort Pierce
Nikkitia Bryant was killed in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day shooting at Ilous Ellis Park in Fort Pierce.

During a Fort Pierce Commission meeting Tuesday night, Police Chief Diane Hobley-Burney described Bryant as a cheerleading mom. Family members said she was at the park with her 9-year-old daughter when Bryant was shot.

Four other people were injured Monday as they attempted to flee the "chaotic scene," Mascara said.

Hester said Wednesday that two of the eight shooting victims are still in the hospital in stable condition.

Hester spoke at Tuesday night's city commission meeting and said the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting with the investigation.

The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office has set up a dedicated hotline specifically to gather leads in the case. Call 772-462-3230 or Treasure Coast Crime Stoppers at 800-273-8477.