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Eight injured as shots are fired outside nightclub in St. Petersburg

Police initially were called to Cabana Sands about a hit-and-run crash. Then the shots rang out and a crowd dispersed.

ST. PETERSBURG — At least eight people were injured early Thursday during a shooting outside a nightclub that started as police investigated a hit-and-run crash nearby, police said.

Five of the injured were shot outside the Cabana Sands nightclub, while three others were injured from glass or shrapnel. Most of the injured were treated and released from the hospital by Thursday afternoon, police said.

Investigators did not make any arrests, but sought two people they believed may have been involved, according to St. Petersburg police spokeswoman Sandra Bentil.

Details were scarce about what led to the shooting in the Coquina Key Shopping Plaza near the corner of Sixth Street and 45th Avenue S. Detectives said an altercation inside the club spilled outside to the parking lot just after midnight.

Police secure the scene of a shooting outside the Cabana Sands nightclub in the Coquina Key Shopping Plaza early Thursday. Police say five people were shot and eight overall sought treatment for minor injuries. They are seeking to identify those who are responsible. [ Boyzell Hosey ]

Officers were already in the plaza investigating a hit-and-run crash. While they were looking into that incident, multiple gunshots were fired, dispersing a crowd.

Theresa Garcia, who works at her father’s furniture business next to Cabana Sands, said people will often do doughnuts in the parking lot with their cars. Police did not say if the crash was connected to that sort of activity or if the crash was related to the shooting.

“Obviously (the crash) investigation ground to a halt,” Bentil said.

No officers were injured. No club security guards were harmed either, said manager Ralph Williams. None of those who were injured were taken to the hospital by ambulance. Police did not release their names.

A shell casing remained in the parking lot outside Cabana Sands until Thursday afternoon, when forensic investigators returned to gather additional evidence. The club is in the background. [ JOSH SOLOMON | Times ]

Twelve hours after the incident, the plaza still held clues of a shooting. Gold and silver-colored shell casings were in the parking lot, and a live round lay outside the club in a patch of dirt. St. Petersburg police forensic investigators returned to the scene to gather the remaining evidence Thursday afternoon.

There also was what looked like a bullet hole through a CVS pharmacy window. A store worker said it wasn’t there on Wednesday.

St. Petersburg police forensic investigators returned to Cabana Sands on Thursday afternoon to collect shell casings from the parking lot. [ JOSH SOLOMON ]
A CVS window was pierced by what appears to be a bullet. Cabana Sands is in the background. An altercation in the nightclub led to a shooting in the parking lot early Thursday morning. [ JOSH SOLOMON ]

It’s not the first time the club has been the subject of police activity. Since it opened in September 2018, officers have been called to Cabana Sands more than 600 times, records show. Many of the calls were related to noise and crowds. Some have been related to battery and brawling. At least two were related to gunshots.

Garcia said it can get rowdy at the club, sometimes by 9 p.m., even though there’s usually security outside.

“This is where people come to shop,” she said while watching a movie with her daughter inside the furniture store. “You don’t want to be scared to come here.”

Outside his club on Thursday, Williams said his sympathies were with those who were injured, and he lamented bad actors casting the club in a negative light. He said he wasn’t immediately sure if the club would open for business on Thursday. He said he would need to speak to his parents, with whom he owns the establishment.

“They just put a magnifying glass on us,” he said.

Police asked anyone who was present at the time, or anyone with information about the shooting, to contact detectives at (727) 893-7780.