WILDWOOD — A Tampa woman was killed and a Tampa man arrested Sunday after a mass shooting at a Father’s Day block party in central Florida sent hundreds of people running for their lives, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office said.
In all, 11 people were shot at the Father’s Day celebration – an annual tradition for residents of the Royal Park community that’s held each year on private property in the Wildwood area, northwest of Orlando.
According to the Sheriff’s office, 10 of the victims were taken to area hospitals and one Tampa woman, 25-year-old Cornecia Quanshay Smikle, was killed at the scene.
Deputies arrived at the event moments after the shooting began, just before 8 p.m. on Sunday. There, bystanders at the party pointed to 22-year-old Rapheal Tyree Thomas, of Tampa, as the lone gunman, Chief Deputy Chris Haworth said.
Thomas was still at the scene when deputies arrived, and footage from body-worn cameras shows the dramatic moment they found him hiding underneath a parked car in a makeshift parking lot full of cowering event goers. The short video clip, made public Monday afternoon, shows two deputies dragging a shirtless Thomas out from under the vehicle and placing him in handcuffs. Deputies have also recovered the handgun used during the shooting, the Sheriff’s office said.
Thomas was being held without bail at the Sumter County Jail on eight counts of aggravated battery, one count of possession of a firearm by a felon and one felony homicide charge, jail records show.
In a brief update posted to the agency’s Facebook page Monday afternoon, Haworth described the shooting as a “senseless incident” that only occurred “when two people from the Tampa Bay area came upon each other.”
“It was absolute happenstance,” Haworth said. “Our suspect brandished a firearm and started shooting at the other person.”
State and county court records show that Thomas has an extensive criminal history, including a conviction in 2017 for an armed robbery in Hillsborough County.
One of the 10 people who survived Sunday’s shooting was transferred to the intensive care unit, Haworth said. The remaining victims were all in stable condition, Haworth said, and some had already begun checking out of the hospital by Monday morning.
Several of the victims were related, Haworth said, but no additional names were released.
Haworth described the annual Father’s Day celebration as a “non-sanctioned” event that’s become a long-held tradition. The event is always held on private property but is known to draw large crowds that often spill over into “public areas,” Haworth said.
Sunday’s shooting in Wildwood was one of 11 mass shootings reported across the nation this weekend, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group that tracks such events.
The group classifies mass shootings as any event where four or more people are shot, not including the assailant, and tracks weekends as a three-day timespan from Friday afternoon until Monday morning.
According to the group’s online records, eight people were killed in mass shootings over Father’s Day weekend and 45 more were wounded, among them children ages 10 and 15.
The weekend before saw 10 mass shootings across seven states, resulting in 12 deaths and 57 injuries, according to the Gun Violence Archive. So far this year, the group has already counted 293 mass shootings in the U.S.
Haworth said there is still an active investigation into the shooting Sunday. Anyone with information can call the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office at (352) 793-2621.