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Families Plead For Help In Weekend Shootings

MIAMI - Amid tears, hugs and highly-charged emotional moments, members of three families whose loved ones were cut down in one drive-by shooting early Sunday pleaded for the public's help. They gathered at Miami Police headquarters Tuesday afternoon to speak out.

"I just want to see justice served," said Joetipha Smith, whose 23-year-old brother Rudolph Sawyer was killed when as many as three gunmen with a high-powered assault rifle opened fire on three people around 12:30 Sunday at the corner of Northwest 54th St. and 5th Ave.

"I lost a friend. I lost my brother. My father lost a son. It's hard because he wanted to change his life," said Smith.

Sawyer's brother, Joey, said, "My brother was generous. He was not supposed to die like that."

"I just want to say to the suspects, turn yourself in and justice will be served," said Ayisha Hartfield is the mother of Sawyer's son. "It's hard. He had a 6-year-old son. This hurts us real bad."

The shooting also claimed the life of 29-year-old Demetrius Owens.

"Let's start to call about this," said his uncle Donovan Santiago. "Call in about these criminals. We need to do something. Tell us what you saw. I know the victims were not perfect. But no one is perfect. They did not deserve to die like this."

Owens' brother, Alvin Williams, said, "I know that on the street there is a code. But these people killed innocent victims."

Police are not sure what prompted this shooting. One lead detective, Anthony Reyes, told CBS4's Peter D'Oench that the suspects used a high-powered assault rifle; and said there is no good description of them. He told CBS4's Peter D'Oench that he is passionate about solving this case, calling the shooting "ridiculous and senseless."

Police also released surveillance tape that shows the suspects' stolen getaway vehicle. It has been found, but it may provide police with some valuable fingerprints.

The shooting also nearly took the life of 17-year-old Jaykia Pitts. Her mother Shirlena Shepherd said her daughter lost her left leg; and said she also lost her spleen and suffered serious damage to one kidney and her liver. Plus, Jaykia has an arm is in jeopardy.

"I would like the public to come forward and help because she was just a 17-year-old girl. She has a one-year-old baby as well. She did not deserve to be slaughtered like this. Not even an animal deserved something this."

Pitts' godmother, Rebecca Jackson, said, "Please don't be afraid to speak out. People need to stop the violence. We are pleading for people to come forward. It could be your family member next time. You need to speak out right now. That's why we are coming forward."

The family of a 4th person, a young man in his twenties, who was wounded did not attend the news conference at Police headquarters.

It was the 2nd drive-by shooting in Miami this past weekend. Detective Reyes told CBS4 there was no evidence to connect the separate shootings; but, bullets from both scenes are being compared to see if they match, according to a source who spoke with CBS4.

A Police source says while Pitts is related to one of the victims, she was an "innocent bystander."

Miami Police are also investigating a similar incident that happened less than two miles away on Saturday in Liberty City. Authorities say 15-year-old Shabazz Newman was walking home in the 1400 block of Northwest 60th Street when three men in ski masks drove up alongside him in a white Nissan and started firing.

Police say Newman was struck at least twice and was also transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital.

"The suspects are brazen, and extremely dangerous," said Miami Police detective Willie Moreno. "We need to bring them to justice."

Police are asking anyone with information to call the Police Department's Homicide Unit at 305-603-6350 or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477.

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