MIAMI — A Dutch woman who got lost and stopped for directions in a blighted, high-crime neighborhood was shot Friday in an apparent holdup attempt. It was the first shooting death of a foreign tourist in Florida in more than two years.
Officials had set up a variety of safeguards for visitors since a string of tourist murders in the past few years damaged Florida's $31-billion-per-year tourism industry.
Tosca Dieperink, 39, was shot on a bright, sunny day at a gas station with cars and pedestrians all around. The woman and her husband "apparently appeared to be tourists" to their assailants, Police Detective Brian Calloway said. "They saw the opportunity and they acted on what they saw."
Tosca and Gerrit-Jan Dieperink, 42, were going shopping and stopped at a Shell station--a Dutch-owned company whose logo is familiar to tourists worldwide--for directions, Police Chief Frank Boni said. The husband got out of the car with a map.
As he talked to the gas station manager, a man walked up and began frisking him. The man showed a gun when the manager tried to chase him away.
At the same time, another man walked up to Tosca Dieperink, who was sitting in the front passenger seat with the windows rolled up and the doors locked, police said. When he couldn't open the car door, he fired once, shattering the window and hitting the woman in the upper torso.
The two men fled, and Tosca Dieperink died at a hospital two hours later.
Police said the two gunmen escaped in a car driven by a third man, without getting anything from the Dieperinks. They stole a pager from the station manager.
Police don't know if the couple, who arrived in Florida on Thursday, had been followed or, as whites, simply stood out in Liberty City, a mostly black neighborhood where crime is rampant and unemployment is high. The neighborhood was the scene of race riots in 1980, in which 18 people died, and has seen lesser disturbances since.
Frank K. Simmons, 25, a black truck driver, was upset that so much attention was focused on the death of a white tourist when blacks are killed regularly in the neighborhood.
"If it was one of us, nobody would care. It would just be called drug-related," Simmons said.