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Gun violence in the US

‘Anti-Trump gunman ambushes police’ in shoot-out at president’s Florida golf resort before being arrested

Jonathan Oddi, 42, draped an American flag over a counter at the Trump National Doral Golf Club before firing into walls and chandeliers and attacking police, authorities said

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2018, 12:55am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 3:28am

Gunfire erupted early Friday at US President Donald Trump’s Miami-area golf resort, as a man shouting anti-Trump rhetoric draped a flag over a lobby counter and exchanged fire with officers in what one official called an “ambush” before being arrested, police said.

One officer broke an arm and the suspect was wounded by gunfire in the incident, which began around 1.30am at the Trump National Doral Golf Club. Trump was not at the resort at the time.

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“We don’t know what his intentions were in the long term, but we know what he was doing at the time – he was trying to engage our police officers in some kind of ambush-type attack,” Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said.

In plotting the ambush, Perez added, “He did succeed and he did lose.”

One responding officer broke a wrist, but no resort employees or guests were hurt.

Perez identified the suspect as Jonathan Oddi, 42, of Doral. Oddi was born in South Africa and became an American citizen in August 2017, The Miami Herald reported.

Police were preparing a search warrant to enter Oddi’s house, Perez said. His neighbours were evacuated Friday morning as officers swept the area looking for booby traps, Perez said.

Video footage showed the conscious suspect being wheeled into a hospital on a stretcher.

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Perez said the man took down a flag from the rear of the complex and draped it over a lobby counter.

“He was yelling and spewing some information about President Trump and that’s what we know so far. And he had an American flag that he did drape over the counter,” Perez said.

The man fired shots into the ceiling and waited for officers to arrive, he said. 

Four officers from Doral and one from Miami-Dade quickly encountered Oddi and exchanged gunfire, authorities said. Oddi was shot multiple times in his legs, and was arrested without further violence, police said. 

“You know, these officers did not hesitate one second to engage this individual that was actively shooting in the lobby of the hotel,” Perez said. “They risked their lives, knowing that they had to get in there to save lives in that hotel.”

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David Jiminian, who lives in Cordova Phase II, the same gated complex where Oddi resides, said he has seen Oddi going in and out of his garage but has never spoken to him. He also said Oddi drove a new sand-coloured Jeep Renegade.

Crime-scene tape marked off a driveway to the community on Friday, and police cars were parked outside.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Jiminian said. “It’s scary that it’s so close to home.” Jiminian added that he had never noticed any anti-Trump bumper stickers on Oddi’s vehicle.

Police said they were combing Oddi’s internet footprint to piece together who he is and what may have motivated him. But the picture is unclear.

In October, Oddi shared a meme on Instagram from right-wing conservative group Turning Point USA that negatively compared Colin Kaepernick – an American football player who began a series of kneeling protests before games to raise awareness about police violence against black people – with a US solider.

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Oddi wrote: “colin worries he doesn’t have a nfl career and kneels for popularity”, The Mi ami Herald reported.

Most of his other Instagram posts – all of which have now been blocked to the public – as screenshots of news stories, including singer Chris Brown being accused of rape, calls for the death penalty for drug dealers, and the sexual assault accusations against film producer Harvey Weinstein, the Herald said.

Oddi also complained about America sending “US$10.4 million per day” to Israel, saying: “[Israel has] free healthcare and college, but we don't because we can't afford it!”

It also noted that he posted a picture of a report on Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who said she had an affair with Trump, with the message “Reality is harsh.”

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Oddi appears to be something of a fan of Melania Trump, the US first lady, writing: #flotus rocks! She sets the example of mannerism. She counters Trumps aggressiveness”.

An Instagram post from August 2017 shows him posing in front of an image of the US flag, having just become an American citizen.

Oddi’s attorney, Rae Shearn, said her client was a fitness instructor. She said it was too early to say anything more. “I am conducting my own investigation and have no statement in regards to what occurred or what didn’t occur or what may have precipitated that event,” she said by phone. 

Neighbours and patrons of a nearby gym said they often saw Oddi lifting weights, but rarely interacted with the beefy man beyond casual greetings. 

“He was always in the gym,” said Lina Diaz, who lives on the same floor as Oddi. “He seemed like a normal guy, nothing aggressive or weird.”

Oddi worked as a dancer and entertainer, owns a small dog, and was born in South Africa and grew up in Argentina, one friend, Luis David Gonzalez, told the Miami Herald and Sun Sentinel newspapers. 

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Gonzalez, who said he worked out with Oddi every day, was bringing coffee and eggs to Oddi on Friday morning when he heard the news. 

“I’m surprised and confused,” Gonzalez said in a Herald interview . “I knew him 10 years. He’s a good person. I’m very surprised he did this.” 

Court records in Miami-Dade and Broward counties show a slew of misdemeanour traffic infractions for Oddi, but no felony arrests.

Eric Trump, the president’s son and executive vice-president of the Trump Organisation, tweeted early on Friday, “A huge thank you to the incredible men and women” of the police departments, adding that “every day they keep our community safe.”

The Secret Service issued a statement saying agents from the Miami field office were at the scene and working closely with other agencies.

The large Trump-owned golf facility in the growing suburb was surrounded by a heavy police presence Friday morning, and news helicopters hovered over the scene. The entrances were blocked, and yellow caution tape was stretched across the main gate.

The golf resort previously known as the Doral Resort & Spa was bought by the Trump Organisation in 2012. Its signature course is the Blue Monster at Doral.

The Trump National Doral, which includes several buildings for lodging and an expansive clubhouse, is among the largest hotels in the Miami suburb. It’s about 8 miles (13 kilometres) from Miami International Airport.

Its website describes it as an 800-acre resort with 643 total guest rooms, more than 100,000 square feet (9,300 square metres) of event space and four golf courses.

In June 2016, the PGA Tour announced that the prestigious World Golf Championship hosted at the Trump National Doral since 2007 would relocate to Mexico.

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The announcement infuriated then-candidate Trump, who called the move to Mexico a “sad day for Miami, the United States and the game of golf”. Trump said in a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity, “I hope they have kidnapping insurance.”

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said the move had nothing to do with politics, only finances. Cadillac did not renew its title sponsorship of the event, and another sponsor that wanted to be at Doral could not be found, Finchem said.