TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A fight between two groups turned deadly in Florida when a shooting in a Tampa street during Halloween festivities resulted in two deaths and 18 people hospitalized early Sunday morning, police said. One suspect is in custody and at least one more is being sought.
At least two shooters opened fire just before 3 a.m. on the 1600 block of East 7th Avenue in the Ybor City area, Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw said during a press conference at the scene.
The fight occurred in an area with several bars and clubs, and there were large numbers of late night revelers in the area at the time, Bercaw said. Police were not immediately sure if the people involved in the fight were inside any of the bars before the shooting.
Tampa police spokeswoman Jonee Lewis said “hundreds” of people were out on the streets as numerous nightspots closed early Sunday. She said one person was detained but no charges were immediately filed. “They’re being questioned and we’ll go from there,” Lewis said.
Police have not released the names of those killed, but Emmitt Wilson said his 14-year-old son, Elijah, was one of the fatalities. Wilson came to the scene Sunday after getting a call that his son was a victim.
“It’s madness to me. I don’t even feel like I’m here right now,” Wilson said. “I hope the investigators do their job and find out who killed my son.”
Video posted online shows people, many in Halloween costumes, drinking and talking on the street when about a dozen shots ring out followed seconds later by about eight more, creating a stampede. Some people topple over metal tables and take cover behind them. Video from the aftermath shows police officers treating several people lying wounded on the ground.
“It was a disturbance or a fight between two groups. And in this fight between two groups we had hundreds of innocent people involved that were in the way,” Bercaw said.
He did not provide details of the injuries suffered by the victims taken to area hospitals.
Police are still investigating the reason for the fight between the two groups, he said.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, a former city police chief, said the problem isn’t a lack of policing, but the easy access to guns.
“Yet again, a senseless loss of life by those choosing to settle a dispute with firearms. Lives lost and others forever changed. To what end? The Tampa Police Department had 50 officers deployed in the area at the time, so this is not a law enforcement issue. Bad decisions made in a split second and the proliferation of readily available guns are responsible for these almost daily incidents,” she said in a statement.
On Sunday morning, the scene of the shooting was quiet — with few businesses open yet, as officers had the area blocked off. Roosters that roam the historic Ybor City streets wandered among empty cups, beer bottles and shoes left behind.
A witch costume sat in the street.
Two young women who came to the scene Sunday morning said they decided not to go to Ybor City the night before because of the crowds.
“We know how Ybor gets,” said Minna Cohen, a 23-year-old recent University of Tampa graduate. “A lot of crime happens here often. You sometimes know not to go to certain places.”
Her friend, 21-year-old Carolina Londoner, said when the bars all close in the early morning hours the streets are packed and unruly.
“When everyone comes together it gets messy, and it’s that way all night,” she said.
AP writer Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., contributed to this report.