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Police have 'person of interest' in Centro Ybor shooting

TAMPA — A teenager is recovering after being shot in the head near the Centro Ybor entertainment complex in Ybor City on Saturday night, authorities said.

Tampa police have identified a 15-year-old male as a "person of interest" in the shooting. That teen was briefly detained after the incident but was subsequently released as officers continued their investigation, Tampa police Lt. Rick Ubinas said.

Police did not release the identity of the victim.

At about 11 p.m., police were responding to a fight at Centro Ybor when another call came in about a shooting at N 15th Street and E Eighth Avenue, a short distance from the fight.

Police officers found a teenage boy lying on the sidewalk with a pool of blood under his head. The teen had been shot in the head — the bullet entered the right temple, severed the optic nerves in his eyes and exited the left temple — but was conscious and talking to officers, Tampa police Lt. Jack Diaz said.

Dan Campbell, co-owner of Mist Martini Lounge at the intersection, said the bar was hosting a large private party Saturday night when suddenly he heard gunshots and saw people ducking behind cars outside.

"We heard these shots and everyone just went silent," he said.

He locked the doors until police arrived, which took only about two minutes, he said. The bartender from the lounge checked on and tried to keep down the bleeding of the wounded boy, who appeared to have gone into shock, Campbell said.

"He just kept saying, 'I just want to go home. I want to go see my mom,' " he said.

The boy was taken to Tampa General Hospital and is expected to live, Diaz said. He was later listed as stable after his condition was initially described as critical.

"It sounds pretty bad and it's still considered critical," Diaz said Sunday morning. "At this point, they're saying he's going to make it."

Police interviewed witnesses who said they saw a large group of males running from the scene of the shooting. Several people were detained and questioned, police said.

Tourists and locals strolled through Centro Ybor and surrounding streets Sunday, many not knowing that a shooting had occurred there the previous night.

Jim Fry, 33, is a Tampa native who has spent a lot of time in Ybor, first at the bars and clubs when he was younger and now running errands and stopping by restaurants during the day.

"I like to think of Ybor as a tourist area that's experienced a lot of good urban growth over the last couple decades," he said while reading a book in Centro Ybor on Sunday. "(The shooting) doesn't alter my perception of the area, but it definitely raises some concerns about the security."

Crime seemed worse to Fry back in the 1990s, before Centro Ybor was built and the area further developed.

Jared Gilbert, the production manager at Cigar City Cider and Mead, set to open on 15th Street near Eighth Avenue within a couple of months, said he isn't worried about crime in Ybor during the day, but knows things can get rough at night.

"When I was younger, I used to come down here quite a bit and see fights every weekend," he said as he prepared a batch of palm honey and dark cherry mead. "But never any shootings or anything like that."

He said he doesn't have qualms with the area or the safety, but that it might make him nervous when his 7-year-old son is around. Gilbert said he and his son were working at the tasting room until about 8:30 p.m. Saturday, a little while before the shooting.

"Hopefully it doesn't scare people off," Gilbert said. "We definitely want to keep the nice ambience of the area, especially in the daytime. We don't want people to be concerned."

Times staff writer Jimmy Geurts contributed to this report.