If you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit Champa Bay, aka Tampa, FL you would have likely marveled at the amazing architecture. Especially in the historic Ybor City, home of the Tampa cigar district. This brick-paved section of the city attracts people from all walks of life. All ages and races flock to the area for cheap stogies, Cuban sandwiches, hookah lounges, and the many, many clubs and bars along this small section of the city.
With the mixture comes altercations, and on October 29th, the streets were filled with Halloweengoers decked out in their costumes. As two groups collided with one another around 3 a.m. Surrounded by strip clubs and bars, the smell of cigars and bad decisions was already in the air, as usual for a weekend night.
Suddenly shots rang out, and hundreds of people were running for cover and trying to hide from the threat most couldn’t identify or locate in the moment. As is usual, officers were already on the scene for normal patrols, and they quickly attended to the injured as best they could. When the gun smoke cleared, 2 were dead, including a 14-year-old boy, and 16 injured.
Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw said, “We’re asking anybody that was out there that has video — and we know there are some out there cause we’ve seen them on social media — anybody that has video of this, to please report it to us… We need to hold those [responsible] accountable.”
In a written statement, Tampa mayor Jane Castor said, “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? 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. Ultimately, she called it “a senseless loss of life.”
So far, one of the shooters has turned himself into the police. 22-year-old Tyrell Stephen Phillips turned himself in on the 29th and is facing second-degree murder with a firearm. This may change depending on answers from ballistics, as well as any other evidence that may be unearthed. So far, two firearms were found at the scene, one of which was stolen.
With the FBI and ATF now involved in the investigation, there is increased pressure to solve the case quickly. Ybor is one of the preliminary places to go and party, and culturally it is one of the crown jewels for the city of Tampa and the entire Tampa Bay region. With state officials trying to attract cigar businesses back to this section of the city, there is a sense of pride in restoring the historic and culturally significant section of Florida. Shootings like this derail those efforts.
Local residents are concerned too. Just a few years prior, just a few miles away, Tampa was dealing with the New Tampa shooter who was indiscriminately killing people across the north side of the city. Violence like this is common in sections of the city, as well as across the bay in parts of St Petersburg that are similar to Ybor, but not mass shootings to this level. Coupled with skyrocketing costs of living, and for many, it’s too much to take anymore.
The outcries for help and for people to put down the guns have been heard for years. Multiple underground fight organizations have emerged in an effort to decrease the number of shootings the city experiences. While limited success has been found with them, they aren’t a solid solution to the problem, as many continue the problem with one another shortly after they fight.
As historic as Ybor is, this isn’t the place for a teenager to be at 3 a.m. either. As much as this is certainly a tragedy, the question about parental responsibility is also there too.