TAMPA — With a nation in jitters over a South Florida school massacre, gunfire erupted a block from Tampa’s Middleton High School on Friday, prompting a reaction that had some students hiding behind locked doors.
Two senior girls, ages 17 and 18, were wounded, including one who was hit in the leg and a second whose foot may have been grazed by a bullet, police said. Their names were not released. Both attend Middleton.
The first girl was taken to a hospital; the second was treated at the scene.
On a police radio frequency, the incident was described as a drive-by shooting, but Tampa police called the situation "dynamic" and said they are still investigating.
The shooting occurred at 24th Street and Curtis Avenue — not on the campus, but a short block south of it.
"A 17-year-old female was hit in the leg from what appears to be a ricochet, resulting in minor injuries," police spokesman Eddy Durkin said in a news release. "Another 18-year-old female advised she may have been grazed in the foot."
Student Curtis Ross, 16, told the Tampa Bay Times that he saw emergency workers put a girl in an ambulance.
School had been let out five to 10 minutes earlier, he said, and he was near the corner of 22nd Street and Osborne Avenue when he heard gunfire. To him, it sounded like four to five shots, and he couldn’t tell where they were coming from.
He said he jumped a fence and ran, and that’s when he saw the ambulance.
The principal of Middleton High, Kim Moore, sent a recorded message to families.
"Right after dismissal today, there were reports of gunshots in the nearby neighborhood. Most of our students had already left campus but there were still some students in the school. We went on an immediate lockdown and held the buses that had not already departed. This incident occurred in the neighborhood and Tampa police are on scene investigating," it said, in part.
The parking lot and sidewalks were brimming with kids one minute and empty the next.
Sisters Maya and Shadae’ Crumbsy, 15 and 17, were caught up in the lockdown.
They said they were in a school courtyard, ready to leave, when two teachers appeared and told everyone they needed to go inside. They saw someone run out of the main office with a first-aid kit.
Maya and Shadae’ were ushered with other students into a room. Teachers locked the door and turned out the lights. The two girls estimated they were kept there about 40 minutes.
Although teachers seemed worried, the girls were not, they said.
"No, honestly, stuff like this happens all the time," Maya said. "We are on lockdown a lot."
It happens when crime in the surrounding east Tampa neighborhood causes concern for student safety, such as on Jan. 24, when a man on nearby Emma Street, 20-year-old Malik Torres, suffered multiple gunshot wounds and died.
On Friday, by the time the girls left the school, TV trucks and police vehicles had arrived.
So had Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
When he first got word of a shooting so close to Middleton, he was sitting in line to pick up his own daughter from another school, he said.
"My thought was, ‘Not now, not in our county, not again,’?" he said. "Fortunately it turned out not to be that case. The fact is, you have two girls wounded by a stray bullet fired by some knucklehead who thinks it’s a good idea to shoot into a crowd.
"This is nothing like what happened near Miami, but the proliferation of guns on the street and guns in the hands of mentally ill people or criminals — this is exactly what happens, until we stand up and do something."
Contact Jonathan Capriel at (813) 225-3141 or [email protected] Follow @jonathancapriel.