An Oakwood family was enjoying a day at the beach Memorial Day when nine people, including four children, were shot and wounded just feet away at Hollywood Beach in Florida.
Adam Wightman was with his sons 7-year-old Everett and 2-year-old Alex building sand castles and his wife, Mechelle, eight months pregnant with the couple’s third child, was relaxing in the waves when suddenly shots rang out close by.
“It was crowded where the shots were fired, heard a bunch of loud bangs. I only counted maybe about seven but it was in quick succession,” Wightman said.
Immediately, Wightman said he had his sons crouch down and tried to cover them. His wife ran out of the water to them, also keeping the boys crouched down, he said.
“People just started to run, you heard a few screams,” he said. “As soon as the shooting stopped I ran straight toward it where people were running from. I’m not sure why.”
Wightman said there was smoke in the air from the gunfire. He saw two women laying on the beach who had been shot, one at least twice in the legs. A man took off his shirt to help her, he said.
“Then I looked over and I saw just a kid, just a young teenager, maybe about 15, and he rolled over and he had his hands on his chest,” Wightman said.
When the teen lifted his hand from his chest “blood started gushing out” from a wound inches from his heart.
“I ran closer, I crouched down by him as he was laying in the sand,” he said.
No one seemed to immediately notice the teen who was next to some trash cans. Another bystander placed his hands on top of the teen’s hands, helping him to apply pressure.
“I was telling him, ‘you’re going to be OK,’ he was taking really shallow breaths,” Wightman said. When a police officer approached and radioed for help, “I told him, ‘help is coming.’”
He then returned to his family, which included his sister who lives in Hollywood.
Wightman and his wife had planned to be in the Oregon District night night of the August 2019 mass shooting in Dayton, but decided against it. He never imagined his family would be so close to another shooting, the experience leaving him on edge.
“I feel like me and my family are just sitting ducks. It’s hard to feel safe after that,” he said. “What mattered to me the most was to know that my kids stayed down and low to the ground.”
Police said the shooting happened shortly before 7 p.m. Monday as a fight between two groups of people that escalated into gunfire in front of a busy stretch of shops on the Hollywood Oceanfront Broadwalk. There already was a heavy police presence to oversee the big crowds for the holiday weekend at the popular beach destination about 11 miles south of Fort Lauderdale and 20 miles north of Miami.
Police spokeswoman Deanna Bettineschi said four children between the ages of 1 and 17 were hit, along with five adults between 25 and 65.
“It was definitely a relief to know that he didn’t die,” Wightman said of the teen he tried to comfort.
Police said five handguns were recovered, including two that were stolen, and two men, both 18, were arrested on weapons charges. Investigators were still seeking to identify three others involved in the shooting.
The Memorial Day shooting was one of at least 268 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as one with at least four people shot, not including the shooter.
The shooting is hard to explain to young children, but Wightman said he and his wife talked about it calmly, that it did happen, but want to make sure their sons feel safe.
“My 7-year-old, I don’t think he understands the gravity,” said Wightman, who said the boy son spoke of it to another relative as if it were something in a movie.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.