RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. – Two people are dead and one was injured after a shooting Saturday outside a church in Florida, city police say.
Police said gunfire erupted at 2:34 p.m. outside of Victory City Church in Riviera Beach, about 5 miles north of West Palm Beach. First responders arrived to find three people shot.
The department had initially reported a fourth victim but determined that a juvenile who arrived at a nearby hospital with a gunshot wound was involved in an unrelated shooting.
Police said that 47-year-old Royce Freeman and a 15-year-old boy, who police declined to identify, died at the scene.
A female adult was also shot. Police say she’s being treated at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach for non-life-threatening injuries.
Police said the shooting happened shortly after a funeral service had ended. While the investigation is ongoing, Riviera Beach Police spokeswoman AJ Walker said investigators believe it happened because of a fight between relatives of the person whose funeral was held.
A nearby gunfire-detecting device recorded 13 rounds, according to city police.
“The shooting was not a random act of violence. The victims and the shooters were known to each other,” police said late Saturday, revealing that more than one person fired shots.
Pastor Tywuante Lupoe, the leader of the Riviera Beach church, told The Post on Saturday that he was returning from a funeral in Fort Lauderdale at the time of the shooting. But Lupoe said a member of his church witnessed the deadly events and told him what he saw.
“Apparently, there was a family dispute that may have escalated and really brought to a point where there was disagreement and fighting,” Lupoe said.
Riviera Beach Police spokeswoman Walker declined comment on the pastor’s version of the events.
“Our investigators are continuing to work this case. Our thoughts are with our community and those families impacted by this tragic event,” Walker said.
Lupoe said the church member saw a person fire warning shots in the air to break up an altercation right after the funeral ended. Another person may have mistaken those shots for an attack, Lupoe said.
Hours after the shooting, as the rain persisted, police pieced together the crime scene, which had played out on the sidewalk and street in front of the church.
Lupoe said that before the funeral, he received a call about possible family tensions and the church’s staff was notified.
Riviera Beach police and the church’s armed security were at the church during the funeral, Lupoe said. After it ended, he said, police and “most of our security” left.
Lupoe said the church regularly has armed security on-site.
The pastor noted that the person whose funeral was held was not a member of the church, but they open up the church for the community to use.
“We pray for the families, the loved ones who lost their two young men today,” he said. “We pray God’s comfort, love and understanding will come to them.”
Hannah Morse on Twitter: @mannahhorse
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post (Palm Beach, FL): Funeral shooting: 2 people killed outside church in Riviera Beach, FL