TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A man has been arrested in Tampa, Florida, in a mass shooting that erupted during Halloween festivities early Sunday. Two people were killed and 18 injured, police said.
At least two shooters opened fire just before 3 a.m. in the Ybor City area, Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw said during a news conference at the scene. Later Sunday he said detectives arrested Tyrell Stephen Phillips, 22, 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 briefing posted online. He called the gun violence “extremely tragic” and said police would not tolerate it.
Earlier, authorities 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 seeking anyone else after Phillips’ arrest.
“We make arrests quickly,” Bercaw said in the briefing. “We have a sense of urgency and if you are going to be out there with a gun, you are going to pay for it.”
It was not immediately known if Phillips had an attorney, and he remained jailed pending an initial court appearance Monday, according to officials and local reports.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, a former city police chief, lamented that Tampa was the focus of national attention for “yet another shooting in our country.”
“We’ve got 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 more recent years, the area has been known for its lively nightlife, and Tampa police spokeswoman Jonee Lewis said “hundreds” of people were on the streets at the time of Sunday’s shootings because numerous nightspots had just closed.
Police had not released the names of those killed, but Emmitt Wilson said his 14-year-old son, Elijah, was one of the fatalities. Wilson came to the scene Sunday after getting a call that his son was a victim.
“It’s madness to me. 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 on the street when about a dozen shots ring out followed seconds later by about eight more. A stampede ensued, with some people toppling over metal tables and taking cover behind them. Video from the aftermath shows police officers treating several people lying wounded on the ground.
“It was a disturbance or a fight between two groups. And in this fight between two groups we had hundreds of innocent people involved that were in the way,” Bercaw said.
He did not provide details of the injuries suffered by the victims taken to area hospitals. Authorities later said most of those hurt were treated and released.
Police are still investigating the reason for the fight between the two groups, he said.
Castor blamed Sunday’s shootings on easy access to guns.
“Yet again, a senseless loss of life by those choosing to settle a dispute with firearms. Lives lost and others forever changed. To what end?” Castor asked. “The Tampa Police Department had 50 officers deployed 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 had the area blocked off. Roosters that roam the historic Ybor City streets wandered among empty cups, beer bottles and shoes left behind.
Two young women who came to the scene Sunday morning said they decided not to go to Ybor City the night before because of the crowds.
“We know how Ybor gets,” said Minna Cohen, a 23-year-old recent University of Tampa graduate. “A lot of crime happens here often. You sometimes know not to go to certain places.”
Her friend, 21-year-old Carolina Londoner, said when the bars all close in the early morning hours the streets are packed and unruly.
“When everyone comes together it gets messy, and it’s that way all night,” she said.
AP writer Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., contributed to this report.