New York Visitor Shot Dead on Miami Highway
MIAMI (AP) _ Just as travel agents from Germany were getting a VIP tour to persuade them to keep sending tourists to Florida, another out-of-state visitor was shot to death on a Miami highway.
The seemingly senseless killing unleashed a new flurry of negative publicity about crime against visitors in a state with a $31 billion a year tourist industry.
Miguel A. Sanchez, 40, of New York City, was shot to death Sunday night while going to a restaurant with his cousin and his cousin’s wife.
A motorist pulled alongside his cousin’s car and fired a single shot through the passenger window, hitting Sanchez in the head.
″At this point we really do not have a motive,″ said police spokesman Ralph Fernandez. No arrests were made, he said.
Sanchez was a parking attendant who sold cars on the side and decided to spend a two-week vacation while in Miami to deliver a van to relatives, said Detective Doug Stephens.
Sanchez’s brother, Mario Fermin, and his mother, Maria Feliz, flew in from the Dominican Republic to meet with police. Fermin said his brother had been thinking about moving to Miami.
″He really liked it here, he wanted to stay,″ he said.
In New York, a relative said members of Sanchez’s family had urged him not to go to Florida.
″They told him not to go. ... I guess he didn’t think it would happen to him,″ said Olga Morales, Sanchez’s sister-in-law.
The attack follows the slayings of 10 foreign tourists in Florida in the past year.
The shooting couldn’t have come at a worse time, said Aldo Rinaldi, president of Sun Tours Inc., which helped bring 22,000 Germans to Florida last year.
Rinaldi had 15 German travel agents in Key West on Monday as part of a campaign to calm European tourists frightened away by the violence.
″It’s already on TV in Germany,″ groaned Rinaldi, whose new bookings are only half the 400 to 500 a month he once averaged. ″We’ve been battling here left and right - I don’t know what to do anymore.″
One of those German travel agents called the anti-Florida publicity unfair.
″In the big cities, downtown, we have the same problem in Germany,″ said Sharon Douzart of Mannheim.
The killing is symptomatic of problems across the country, said state Sen. James Hargrett of Tampa. He and other black Florida legislators discussed urban violence in a symposium last week.
″The rest of the world has the chance to see its future by looking at Florida,″ Hargrett said. ″Across the nation, in every metropolitan area, there is a Third World community - a little Somalia - with people running around in the street with guns.″
Gov. Lawton Chiles has stumped the state over the past month, promising more security while emphasizing that violence against both tourists and Florida residents has dropped in recent years.
″The state seems to be under a microscope right now,″ complained the governor’s spokesman, Ron Sachs. ″The state Department of Commerce has shown fairly clearly (that) less than one tenth of 1 percent of the millions of visitors in Florida confront the prospect of becoming a victim of crime.″
The violence has had a limited short-term effect with ″a scattering of cancellations, but not a mass exodus,″ said department spokeswoman Joy Mills.
″But it’s very difficult to measure the long-term impact,″ she said.