A shooting erupted in the middle of Ybor City after a Saturday night full of Halloween celebrations, leaving two dead and at least 16 people injured, Tampa police said.
Police said the shooting occurred between two quarreling groups near Centro Ybor, in the 1600 block of East Seventh Avenue, at around 3 a.m. Sunday. Officers immediately responded to more than a half-dozen injured people outside Tangra Nightclub and a 7-Eleven convenience store.
More than 50 officers were in the area, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said on social media, but the incident quickly turned into “a senseless loss of life by those choosing to settle a dispute with firearms.”
“Lives lost and others forever changed. To what end?” she posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “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. We can affect one half of this equation.”
Hours after the shooting, Tampa police arrested Tyrell Stephen Phillips, 22, of Tampa, charging him with second-degree murder. He was booked into Hillsborough County jail and is expected to make a first appearance in court on Monday.
Videos on social media showed officers tending to costumed victims as they bled on the sidewalk, and people running away from the sound of gunshots. One person died at the scene, police said, and another was transported to a hospital and died there.
The deceased victims were a 14-year-old Black male and a white male, 20. Of the 16 people treated for injuries, 15 were shot, Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw said, and another was seriously injured. By mid-Sunday afternoon, all but five of the injured, who ranged in age from 18 to 27 years old, had been released from the hospital, Bercaw said.
One of the two handguns recovered by police was stolen, Bercaw said. Asked if the event was gang-related, or if police were still looking for additional suspects, Bercaw said that was part of the ongoing investigation.
“It’s an isolated dispute between two people that turned into gun violence when it shouldn’t have done that,” Bercaw said.
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis posted on X that his office has been “in constant contact” with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, “and we are offering all available resources to local law enforcement to respond to this terrible situation.”
The shooting occurred on what is typically one of Ybor City’s busiest evenings of the year: the Saturday night before Halloween. For decades, the city hosted the Guavaween parade and festivities, featuring thousands of costumed revelers lining Seventh Avenue, and huge crowds still flock to clubs there for costume parties and other events.
Ybor City’s nightlife landscape has of late been a topic of discussion among developers, including real estate investor Darryl Shaw, who is planning more than 5,000 residences and 500,000 square feet of office space in the area over the next decade. In an interview this summer, Shaw said there was “definitely a desire to temper some of the late-night activity.”
“Enough of the irresponsible clubs and the criminal element they attract,” former Mayor Bob Buckhorn wrote Sunday morning on X. “Time to go. Ybor deserves better.”
Castor pushed back on the notion that Ybor City’s nightlife scene breeds violence, saying many business owners have done a lot of work to make the district safer.
“If you look at the overall crime rate in Ybor City, it’s very, very low,” Castor said. “It’s just unfortunate that these late-night, early-morning incidents are occurring, when you have disputes that in the past may have been settled in a verbal argument, and at the very worst, a physical fight. And now people aren’t hesitating to pull out guns and shoot, and not only kill innocent individuals, but hurt bystanders as well.”
With at least 20 victims, the shooting ranks among Tampa Bay’s most destructive gun violence incidents. A year ago, one person died and six were injured in a shooting at a cigar bar and lounge in downtown Tampa. In November 2020, two Tampa shootings within the span of a week left three people dead and another 11 wounded.
While not all of Sunday’s victims were directly hurt by gunfire, the overall toll already ranks among the worst of any U.S. gun-related incident this year. Only three mass casualty events this year have yielded more injuries, according to the not-for-profit Gun Violence Archive. The combined tally of 20 victims dead or injured is higher than all but five gun violence incidents in 2023 — including last week’s mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, in which 18 people were killed and another 13 injured.
“A neighborhood bar. A bowling alley. Halloween parties. It seems we can’t go one day without a mass shooting in America,” Kris Brown, president of the gun safety organization Brady, said in a statement. “We Americans should be able to freely and joyously celebrate holidays, as every other country does. But because of our uniquely easy access to firearms, Americans live under the constant threat of gun violence.”
Castor stressed at an afternoon news conference that Tampa was “one of the safest cities of its size in the nation,” but that gun law changes were necessary to prevent more incidents like this.
“We cannot come back to the microphones day after day and give our sincere condolences to the victims of gun violence,” she said. “We as a country have to make decisions. A vast majority of Americans support reasonable firearm solutions and support reasonable regulations.”
Local businesses have partnered with Tampa police to review surveillance video that may have captured the incident. Investigators ask anyone with information to call the nonemergency line at 813-231-6130 or contact Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay at 800-873-8477.
“We need that video,” Bercaw said. “We’re going to hold those accountable and we’re going to bring them to justice, but we need the cooperation of the community for that. And that is our ask.”
Due to information provided to the Times by the Tampa Police Department, an earlier version of this story had an incorrect number of wounded and the wrong age for one of those killed. Two people were killed and 16 were wounded. One victim was 20 years old.
Times staff writers Jay Cridlin, Divya Kumar, Luis Santana and Dan Sullivan contributed to this story.