What to Know
- Warneric Bucker was arrested on multiple murder and attempted murder charges in the May 30 shooting at El Mula Banquet Hall
- Officials said Buckner gave detectives a statement implicating himself in the shooting, which claimed the lives of three people and left 20 others wounded
- Prosecutors said Wednesday that Buckner had been interrogated by detectives after he'd asked for an attorney, making his statement inadmissible and leaving them with insufficient evidence
A man who was arrested in connection with a mass shooting at a northwest Miami-Dade banquet hall that left three people dead and 20 injured in May is no longer facing charges after prosecutors said detectives improperly got a confession after he asked for an attorney.
Warneric Buckner, 20, was arrested in October on three counts of first-degree murder and 20 counts of attempted first-degree murder for the May 30 shooting outside the El Mula Banquet Hall.
According to a Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office memo released Wednesday, Buckner had given a statement to detectives implicating himself and other gunmen in the shooting, but when prosecutors reviewed the recorded statement, they found he “initially invoked his right to counsel, and despite the invocation, homicide investigators with the Miami-Dade Police Department continued to conduct an interrogation."
In their memo, prosecutors Michael Von Zamft and Chris Flanagan wrote the confession could be “subject to suppression” by a judge and could be deemed “inadmissible evidence."
The memo said that without Buckner's statement, there is currently insufficient evidence to prove the case against him beyond a reasonable doubt.
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"When it is deemed that a case cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt with admissible evidence, the State of Florida has an ethical obligation not to file charges that it cannot prove in good faith," the memo read. "For the foregoing reasons, no further action will be taken in court at this time."
The case remains open and prosecutors will “consider pursuing charges at a later time as additional evidence is uncovered," the memo said.
Buckner, who had been held without bond since his arrest, was released from jail Wednesday night. He covered his face and did not answer any questions from reporters.
The lawyer who represents multiple victims of the shooting said they are disappointed in the news of the dropped charges.
"The families we have the privilege to represent are distraught and disappointed in the recent development regarding the alleged shooter’s unexpected release from custody," Shelby Walton of The Haggard Law Firm said in a statement. "This news only adds to the immense pain and trauma caused by this avoidable tragedy. Due to this sensitive issue and ongoing civil litigation, our clients will refrain from making further comment at this time."
In a statement Wednesday, Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez said he was "disappointed and saddened" to learn that the statement was inadmissible.
"We will continue investigating to ensure that justice is served on all that are responsible for this heinous crime," Ramirez's statement read. "We remain committed to the victims and the families of those that tragically lost their lives. We will continue working together with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office to bring closure for all involved."
According to an arrest report, Buckner identified himself as a passenger in the Nissan Pathfinder that was caught on camera as being at the scene of the shooting, which happened at a release party for a local rap artist.
Buckner said he aimed a large firearm and fired into a crowd of people, but could not recall how many shots he fired, the report said.
On Sept. 24, 22-year-old Davonte Barnes was arrested and booked into the Miami-Dade jail on the same charges as Buckner. Barnes admitted to acting as a lookout for the shooters, telling investigators he spoke with the other suspects involved before the shooting took place.
Police said Barnes told them he drove to the scene in his mother's Nissan Altima before the shooting and informed other suspects that one of the intended victims was at the scene.
Surveillance footage released by police showed the three gunmen getting out of the Pathfinder armed and wearing masks, then getting back in the SUV and fleeing the scene after the shooting.
The day after the shooting, police confirmed that the Pathfinder was discovered submerged in a canal in the area of 154th Street and Northwest 2nd Avenue. The vehicle had been reported stolen on May 15.
The Miami-Dade Police Department said two people initially died at the scene and another died later at an area hospital. The victims were identified as Clayton Dillard and Desmond Owens, both 26, and 32-year-old Shaniqua Peterson.
Several groups who were in the parking lot were armed and began shooting back at the gunmen as they fled the scene, police said.