A 24-year-old Florida man is under arrest in the shooting death of an 85-year-old grandmother who was on her porch watching the sunset and sharing a drink with a neighbor when she was shot in the head.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced late Friday that James Calvin Velazquez was under arrest on one count of first-degree murder.
Additional arrests are pending, the police department suggested.
The victim, Elizabeth Level, was known in the community as “Miss Liz,” Rundle said.
“The elderly grandmother died of a fatal gunshot wound to the head while sitting in a chair outside her Liberty City home on the evening of September 9, 2022,” Rundle’s office said in a press release.
Liberty City is a Miami neighborhood situated north-northwest of the city’s downtown area.
The Miami Herald reported that Level was drinking a can of beer and had her walker in her hand. She was bidding “farewell to the evening sun” and sharing “a drink and conversation with her neighbor” when she was gunned down, the newspaper said.
“Our elderly residents should never have to fear anything while sitting peacefully on their own front porch,” Rundle said in a statement. “Yet, this is exactly the type of peace that gun-toting gang members wish to steal from the residents of our community. No member of Miami-Dade’s law enforcement community will let that happen.”
Rundle said a City of Miami Police Department Real Time Crime Center “trailer camera” had been placed in front of Level’s house “due to previous shootings and investigations occurring at the address.”
“Family members residing at Miss Liz’s home are alleged members of a specific gang,” Rundle’s press release indicates. “Velazquez is alleged to be a member of a rival gang.”
“Elizabeth Level was an elderly resident of our City who deserved to live her golden years in peace,” Miami Police Chief Manuel A. Morales said in a statement. “Instead, her life was abruptly and violently ended by a bullet intended for someone else. The arrest of James Velazquez for the murder of Ms. Level is only the first of several expected additional arrests. The men and women of the Miami Police Department will ensure that all those involved in this heinous crime are brought to justice.”
Relatives told the Herald that the victim herself had “insisted” that the video system be set up outside the home Level had lived in for 50 years. The reason for that request, according to the newspaper, was previous shootings in the area.
Relatives reportedly said they believe the shooter who claimed Level’s life was in a car just east of the grandmother’s home. The reason Level was killed, they asserted, was because she “was the only visible target.” Others, they told the newspaper, were behind a hedge and couldn’t easily be seen from the street.
“The video showed a bullet hitting a car next to Level,” the newspaper said of the incident. “She was struck. Two men ran past her and seemed to return fire.”
According to online jail records, the defendant is locked up at the Broward County Jail with a listed arrest date of Fri., Oct. 7. Besides the first-degree murder charge referenced in the Miami-Dade prosecutor’s press release, the jail records indicate the defendant is also charged with the possession of oxycodone (percocan/percocet).
The victim was a well-known figure in Liberty City, according to an attorney for her family.
“Grandma Liz is not just their grandma,” said attorney Nykeah Cohen, according to Miami NBC affiliate WTVJ. “She was Liberty City’s grandmother. She was Liberty City’s matriarch.”
[Image of Velazquez via a Broward County, Florida jail mugshot; image of Level via a Crime Stoppers reward poster.]
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