Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Public safety

Parking lot shoot-out at Whiskey North nightclub injures two

TAMPA — Two men were wounded when a shootout erupted early Sunday as scores of people were leaving the Whiskey North nightclub at closing time.

About 200 patrons were streaming out of the Carrollwood club about 3 a.m. when a skirmish broke out in the front parking lot. As bullets flew, patrons ducked back inside or shielded themselves behind cars. Some ran down Dale Mabry Highway.

Hillsborough County deputies were trying to piece together what happened and hadn't arrested any suspects by Sunday evening. Deputies said they were looking for a gray car seen on fuzzy surveillance video.

Investigators described a chaotic scene at the late-night spot, which is in a retail center at 11921 N Dale Mabry Highway, about 2 miles south of Ehrlich Road.

Investigators found between 17 and 20 shell casings outside.

Wounded were Sheldon Lillie, 31, and Yakim Williams, 27, both of Tampa.

"I just heard the shots and went to the floor," Williams said.

"By God's grace," said his mother, Olive Williams. "I'm thankful he's alive."

He was grazed by bullets on the head and bicep and was released from a hospital Sunday afternoon. Lillie was shot in the shoulder and remained hospitalized.

It marked the second shooting in six months in the club's parking lot.

In July, Pablo Bonilla, 23, of Tampa was killed and another patron injured in an argument over a woman that began in the club and continued outside.

An analysis shows that deputies last year responded to 148 calls for service at the club. Several were tied to the same individual incidents and many seemed minor, from parking and trespassing offenses to a liquor law violation.

But some of the calls involved violence, including 16 for assault and battery, four for fighting, one for a shooting, one for a stabbing and one for sexual battery.

Whiskey North's management declined to comment to the Tampa Bay Times.

Deputies said that as shots rang out Sunday morning, patrons took cover wherever they could.

One group hid behind a Mercedes-Benz CLS 550 AMG, which was riddled with 10 bullets, deputies said. The car was impounded. Bullets also hit another car, shattering a window and mirror.

Twitter lit up with dispatches about what sounded like fireworks. They said women ran barefoot and in heels. One woman injured her foot.

Deputies trying to untangle the confusion interviewed witnesses and reviewed surveillance footage, but had no clear idea of what triggered the melee.

Investigators couldn't say whether Lillie and Williams were targeted or were bystanders caught in a crossfire. The men were unable to identify who shot them.

Deputies said that at least one but as many as four shooters might have been involved.

The bar's manager told investigators that no problems or fights had occurred before the incident either inside or outside the club.

"Obviously, we're concerned that there's been violence," sheriff's spokeswoman Samara Sodos said.

Times researcher Natalie Watson and staff writer Rich Shopes contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354.

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