At first, exercisers at the upscale fitness center thought the bangs came from two weights being slammed together—the not-infrequent result of some overzealous gym rat maxing out a deadlift, perhaps.
Then the bangs continued.
“Five gunshots,” Ovi Viera told the Miami Herald. “It was too loud for it to have been a weight dropping. Within two seconds, people just started running out.”
The bangs came from a handgun, reportedly brandished by Abeku Wilson, 33, who was until Saturday morning a trainer at an Equinox in the tony Miami suburb of Coral Gables. The reported targets: two of Wilson’s former coworkers at the fitness center, general manager Janine Ackerman and fitness manager Marios Hortis.
As Wilson, clad in the black-on-black uniform of the gym’s top-flight trainers, opened fire hours after his reported firing, gymgoers fled the Equinox for the safety of the upscale mall in which the gym is located, some clad in nothing more than towels.
“I was confused—I saw men with towels around their waists,” Lauren DeCanio, a college student who works in a yoga boutique in the mall, told the Miami Herald. “Then a man reached out and grabbed my arm, rather forcefully, and said ‘you can’t go there; there has been a shooting.’”
As alarms blared and police flooded the mall in search of the shooter, employees and customers were told to shelter in place. But by the time police had arrived, the shootings were over. Wilson reportedly took his own life.
“We can confirm that an incident occurred at our club in Coral Gables, Florida,” Equinox told the Daily Beast in a statement released by the company. “We are working with all of the relevant authorities as they investigate the situation. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this terrible tragedy. Out of respect for them and our entire Equinox family, we will refrain from commenting further until it is appropriate to do so.”
Ackerman and Hortis were transported to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, both in critical condition, and later succombed to their injuries.
"Our love, prayers and condolences are with both families during this terrible time," Equinox told the Daily Beast in a statement following the deaths of Ackerman and Hortis. "The collective Equinox community will always keep Janine and Marios in our hearts.
Former trainees of Wilson’s told the Miami Herald that the aspiring model was a “nice guy, quiet… not a crazy guy.”
“There was a dance class of 40 people if he wanted to do that,” the former customer said. “This was personal.”
A statement from Detective Alvaro Zabaleta of the Miami-Dade Police Department provided to the Daily Beast asserted that the violence was “targeted.”
“The preliminary investigation reveals that this shooting involves a dispute between an ex-employee and fitness center staff,” Zabaleta said. “The investigation also reveals that both victims were targeted and that this was not an act of random violence.”
In his biography on the modeling site Model Mayhem, Wilson is described as “God-fearing, outgoing, charismatic, versatile, ambitious, kind hearted, and has a youthful and loving sense of humor. He has a positive attitude and appreciates and enjoys the simple things in life.”