A man has been arrested in a mass shooting that broke out during Halloween celebrations in Tampa, Florida, early Sunday. Two people were killed and 18 injured, police said.
At least two gunmen opened fire in the Ybor City area shortly before 3 a.m., Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw said during a news conference at the scene. Later Sunday, he said investigators had arrested 22-year-old Tyrell Stephen Phillips in connection with the shooting. He was charged with second-degree murder with a firearm.
“My heart goes out to the families,” Bercaw said in a news conference posted online. He called the gun violence “extremely tragic” and said police would not tolerate it.
Authorities had previously said one suspect was in custody and at least one other was being sought, but Bercaw did not immediately say Sunday afternoon whether police were looking for anyone else following Phillips’ arrest.
“We are making arrests quickly,” Bercaw said in the press conference. “We have a sense of urgency and if you’re out there with a gun, you’re going to pay.”
It was not immediately known whether Phillips had an attorney, and he remained in jail pending his first court appearance Monday, according to officials and local reports.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, a former police chief in the city, complained that Tampa was the focus of national attention because of “another shooting in our country.”
“We need to say as a country that enough is enough,” she said.
The early morning fight occurred in an area with several bars and clubs that was once the center of Tampa’s cigar industry. In recent years, the area has been known for its lively nightlife, and Tampa police spokeswoman Jonee Lewis said there were “hundreds” of people on the streets at the time of Sunday’s shootings because numerous nightclubs had just closed.
Police did not release the names of those killed, but Emmitt Wilson said his 14-year-old son Elijah was one of those killed. Wilson arrived at the scene Sunday after receiving a call that his son was a victim.
“For me it’s crazy. I don’t even feel like I’m here right now,” Wilson said. “I hope the investigators do their job.”
Video posted online shows people, many in Halloween costumes, drinking and talking in the street when about a dozen shots are fired, followed by about eight more seconds later. A stampede ensued, with some people falling over metal tables and seeking cover behind them. A video of the aftermath shows police officers treating several wounded people lying on the ground.
“It was a disturbance or a fight between two groups. And this fight between two groups involved hundreds of innocent people standing in our way,” Bercaw said.
He did not provide any information about the injuries of the victims, who were taken to area hospitals. Authorities later said most of the injured had been treated and released.
Police are still investigating the cause of the fight between the two groups, he said.
Castor blamed Sunday’s shootings on easy access to guns.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre urged the new House speaker to make finding common ground on gun violence a priority.
“Once again a senseless loss of life due to the decision to resolve a dispute with firearms. Lives lost and others forever changed. For what purpose?” Castor asked. “Tampa Police had 50 officers in the area at the time, so this is not a law enforcement issue.
The scene of the shooting was quiet Sunday morning as officers cordoned off the area. Roosters that roam the historic streets of Ybor City wandered among empty cups, beer bottles and abandoned shoes.
Two young women who were at the scene Sunday morning said they had decided not to go to Ybor City the night before because of the crowds.
“We know how Ybor is doing,” said Minna Cohen, a 23-year-old graduate of the University of Tampa. “A lot of crime often happens here. Sometimes you know you shouldn’t go to certain places.”
Her friend, 21-year-old Carolina Londoner, said that when all the bars close in the early hours of the morning, the streets are crowded and busy.
“When everyone gets together, it gets chaotic, and it stays that way all night,” she said.
AP writer Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, contributed to this report.