By Peter D'Oench

NORTHEAST MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) — Miami-Dade Police, with flyers in hand, fanned out across a neighborhood in Northeast Miami-Dade Friday asking for the public’s help after two homeless people were shot and killed in the same area a few days apart after Christmas.

“We want to educate the community about this,” said one officer inside a business along N.E. 167th St. near 4th Ave. “We are reaching out to the community and if you see anything or hear anything contact us. If you have surveillance cameras, we are asking that your review your video and if you see anything suspicious you should contact us.”

Officers passed out dozens of flyers at businesses in the area. They started at N.E. 167th St and 4th Ave. where the body of 41-year-old Donna Diane Edwards was discovered at 3 p.m. on December 29th by an abandoned building.

Police were also asking for help in the murder of 40-year-old Rony Dassas, whose body was discovered by a restroom at Oak Grove Park at 7:03 a.m. on December 27th at 690 N.E. 159th St. A 46-year-old homeless man was also critically wounded.

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Ron Book, the Chairman of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust, made an impassioned plea for the public’s help, saying “In our community we have a long standing situation where we care for our most vulnerable who are homeless. These incidents started a day or two after the Homeless Trust held its annual vigil. These cases are as important if not more so than any other case law enforcement has had to deal with.”

Book told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “Somebody saw something. Somebody knows something. Somebody heard something. It is up to our community to stand up for these vulnerable individuals who have no ability to fight back and no ability to protect themselves. They are out there in the elements sleeping. I have been Chairman of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust for 25 years and we have never had a situation like this occur. We hope the message is pick up the telephone and call. We hope this we create a conversation and get people talking in our community.”

“You can call the Homeless Trust at 305 375-1490 but we would really like you to call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305 471-TIPS (8477).”  There is a reward of up to $3,000.

A woman named Joedia said she heard the gunshots that killed Dassas.

She said people in the neighborhood called him “Snoop.”

“He’s a very important person in this community. He helps a lot of people,” she said.

On most days, she tells CBS4’s Amber Diaz, he would hang out at the Food Giant down the road and help people with their groceries.  On the night he was killed, she went to get him a jacket so he wouldn’t be cold outside the market.

“I thought that his sister wasn’t gonna come pick him up,” she continued.  When Joedia got back, she was told he went to Oak Grove park to sleep, where he would eventually be killed.

“Find his killer! Find his killer!” she said.

Racco Bracciano, who is also homeless, was a friend of Dassas.

“Rony didn’t bother anybody,” he said. “He just did his thing. He just wanted to get high and do his thing. To kill a homeless person I don’t know what you can gain from that. If the shooter comes up to me he better get me first because I was shot 4 times in the Marine Corps in the knee and the stomach and the shoulder. So he better get me first. Otherwise I will grab his gun and hold it on him and call the police and make sure he is taken to jail.”

“I hope they find the shooter or shooters quick because there is a lot of homeless people around here. You see them sleeping behind CVS and other buildings where it is safe and you see them sleeping together because there is safety in numbers.”

Alejandro Lopera who manages a car wash on busy N.E 167th Street said that Donna Edwards was a familiar figure in the neighborhood.

“I used to see her walking up and down the street all the time, just up and down the street all the time. She looked like a pretty nice person to me,” said Lopera.

Miami-Dade Police Detective Chris Thomas could not say if the crimes were connected.

“There are a lot of similarities,” he said. We are still looking at that possibility. There are similarities in the crimes. They did happen near each other and within days of each other. We cannot day definitely that they were targeted. They could be isolated but again there similarities in time and distance.”

Thomas said police were waiting on ballistics tests to see if the same weapon might have been used.

Peter D'Oench

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