TAMPA — A 24-year-old man died early Friday after he was shot near Club Ice in Ybor City, police said.
Officers found Ricky S. Ligons, 24, of Tampa lying face down on the pavement in the club's parking lot, at 1704 N 17th St., just before 2:30 a.m.
Ligons was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he died.
Police were responding to calls about a fight outside the club when they found Ligons.
He had been trying to break up the scuffle when he was shot, witnesses said.
Shameka Barber, 34, had just left Club Ice and was heading to the parking lot when she saw two women begin to fight, she said.
Ligons stepped in. Then the crackle of four gunshots cut through the night.
Barber ran. When she looked back, Ligons was on the ground.
Barber said she found a mounted Tampa police officer and asked for help. When she returned, Ligons was still on the ground. She checked his pulse. He was breathing and mumbling for help.
"It happened fast, and it's a tragedy," she said. "He was just trying to break up a fight."
Dozens of Ligons' loved ones gathered at his home Friday in the 2800 block of Besito Court in Tampa. His brother sat near the front door and cried. The family declined to speak to a reporter.
Club Ice managers issued a statement via their Twitter and Facebook pages that said Ligons was shot in the parking lot, not inside the club. The statement also issued a call for justice:
"Rick was and ALWAYS will be a part of OUR family and we are doing EVERYTHING in our power to help catch the person that did this," it said. "He did not deserve this, he loved life and will be DEARLY missed."
Levi Houston, a promoter for Club Ice, drove by the parking lot Friday morning to see the place where his friend had been killed.
"A lot of people woke up this morning and thought it couldn't be Rick," Houston said. "Everybody loves him."
Ligons was a regular at Club Ice and the Empire Night Club, Houston said, and never caused any fights or trouble, though he does have a history of misdemeanor arrests, according to state records.
An investigation is under way.
The shooting follows a spate of nightclub violence in Ybor City last year that shut down the Empire Night Club, which closed after 20-year-old Leslie Jones Jr. was shot and killed in October. In November, five people were wounded after a shooting at Club Manilla.
At the time, community leaders worried the violence would promote a negative image of Ybor City, while safety concerns prompted the Tampa City Council to explore tougher regulations on area nightclubs, including a possible ban on patrons younger than 21.
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.