MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The first person who tried to help the two victims of the Equinox gym shooting, and came face to face with the shooter, is speaking out about the harrowing experience.
On Saturday afternoon, former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez witnessed Abeku Wilson be fired and escorted out of the gym. Less than 10 minutes later he heard the shots.
Alvarez, who was with the Miami-Dade Police Department for 28 years and was director for seven of those years, said, “I did the best I could.”
When everyone was running out, he ran back into the gym.
“I saw him coming back in the gym with a gun in his hand and he said, ‘Where is he?’” Alvarez recalled in an exclusive interview with CBS4’s Silva Harapetian. “He looked at me… I looked at him. He was looking for the third person who was involved in his termination.”
The third person Wilson was looking for had run away after hearing the gunshots that took the lives of general manager Janine Akerman and fitness manager Marios Hortis.
“She had a head wound and I put a towel on her and I kind of grabbed and can still see her little tennis shoes,” Alvarez said. “Janine was much worse than Marios. She was bleeding profusely from the head and I tried to render aid. I really thought that I was going to find some people shot.”
Hortis had a gunshot wound to the back of his head and was shot twice in the back.
“He was talking. First things he said was, ‘I can’t feel my legs.’ I was really up close to his ear, he said, ‘Don’t talk anymore,’ that was creating some sort of pain,” Alvarez said.
“It was surreal,” he said. “I have been in law enforcement most of my adult life. I can tell you that the feeling of being in a close environment where there are shots being fired is not a pleasant thing.”
Alvarez told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench he offered his condolences to the families.
Friends and co-workers of Akerman and Hortis are still in shock and disbelief that something like this could have happened.
CBS4’s Peter D’Oench spoke with two former Equinox fitness trainers who knew or who had contact with Wilson and they said this was way out of character for him and they never expected something like this to happen.
Both former trainers did not want to reveal their identities, but one of them said, “What I can tell you is that he was a very good person.”
Another former trainer said, “This was very uncharacteristic of him. He always had a smile on his face. He always had great energy and he was really upbeat. I am very shocked that something like this happened.”
Many gathered at a candlelight vigil for the pair Sunday night at the Village of Merrick Park.
Saturday morning Akerman, 35, fired personal trainer Wilson for workplace violence and had him escorted out of the building, according to police.
Wilson reportedly went home, got a semi-automatic handgun and went back to the gym looking for Akerman, Hortis and a third person. Police say he shot both of them multiple times and then killed himself.
“I was at Neiman Marcus sitting on the patio with my daughter, enjoying lunch, having a wonderful time when you hear shots. Who expects to hear shots on a Saturday afternoon sitting on a patio of a luxury store? And then we saw the SWAT teams with their M4 rifles, this is Coral Gables,” said Lisa Rosen-Equinox, who is an Equinox member.
Akerman died late Saturday night and Hortis succumbed to his injuries on Sunday morning.
Akerman, engaged to be married at the end of 2017, was known and respected in the hospitality industry. She once worked at the Fontainebleau Resort where she met her fiancé.
“We are overwhelmed with a sense of loss. This senseless loss that it is and truly a little bit of disbelief. Janine was one of our family members, she was a friend and colleague a co-worker and most of all she was this bright beautiful young lady with amazing future, said the Fontainebleau’s VP of Operations Mary Rogers.
Hortis, a model with a warm personality, was employed at the gym for more than six years.
Tears and confusion at the vigil not only from the Equinox employees but also members of the community.
“Two beautiful people died, our community is very affected,” said Coral Gables resident Alfanzo Perez.
Wilson, who graduated from the University of Miami, had just returned from vacationing in Ghana where his family is originally from.
Two former Equinox employees who knew Wilson described him as an extremely nice guy who did not have a violent nature. One said he quit because managers set up unreasonable quotas to get clients.
Equinox members who spoke with CBS4 said they’ll return to it now that it has re-opened. Rosen said this needs to be a wake-up call on many fronts.
“The only way to end this is to stop random violence with guns. People are dead, two people who were very young and very beautiful and one clearly troubled,” said Rosen.
The former trainers also said trainers at the gym were often under a lot of pressure to perform.
“They put a lot of pressure on trainers to outperform the previous month,” said one of them.
The other former trainer said, “As former trainers I can tell you they put a lot of pressure on trainers to keep performing.”
CBS4 asked a spokeswoman for Equinox if she could comment about those claims. She said she could not.