Deadly Ybor City shooting leaves eyewitnesses, workers shocked

The mood in Ybor City remained somber early into the afternoon Sunday, as much of Seventh Avenue remained taped off following an overnight shooting that left two people dead and at least 16 injured.

Family members of one victim, whose body remained at the scene, grieved nearby, as onlookers took photos of the taped-off streets. Chairs, shoes and hats remained strewn in and around Centro Ybor. Employees of nearby businesses remained rattled.

Alicia Duffy, manager of New York New York Pizza, said this was the worst instance of violence in her 14 years in Ybor.

After hearing gunshots, people in line at the window began to run. The store locked and shuttered its windows. Duffy heard screaming and crying. Some knocked on the doors, asking to get in. Staff saw ambulances collect people in front.

”It’s obviously tragic,” Duffy said. “This is what it’s come down to. It’s scary it’s happening in the main street now.”

Casey O’Malley, who works at Ybor City Tap House, gathered with other Ybor residents.

”I think everyone is trying to deal with it in their own way,” she said, tearing up. “A lot of people are still in shock.”

Natalie Nicole, an Ybor resident and former hospitality worker in the area, said she woke up to a group text of business owners and bartenders checking in with each other to make sure everyone got home safely.

”It’s sad, it’s senseless, it’s unacceptable,” she said. ”It sucks that such senseless acts bring such a reputation and feeling to a community.

Nicole saw videos shared of the shooting and saw four guns, lamenting the state’s changes in gun laws.

”It’s the Wild West out here,” she said. “These things are never going to end. We have to accept this as part of our reality and be cautious of our surroundings.”

Evan Christopher, owner of the Spookeasy Lounge, about a block away, said he was saddened but not surprised, adding it felt like a direct result of recent gun law changes.

”It’s a shame,” he said. “It’s a tragedy. There’s just no answer, but more guns is not the answer.”

Some who were out last night but left before the shooting returned this morning.

“It was nerve-wracking to learn about,” Kaneisha Moore, who lives in Riverview and left around 2:10 a.m., said. “I feel bad for the families. Their kids didn’t make it home.”

One witness who asked not to be named returned to Centro Ybor to look for her keys. She remembered standing with her friends as police horses were walking down Seventh Avenue when she heard shots and started running.

”We heard the shots and we ran,” she said. “I didn’t see anything. I just pray everyone who is injured makes it. … I could have been one of them.”

By mid-afternoon, some normality returned. A group of friends dressed as nuns embarked on a bar crawl. Patrons returned to nearby bars, some asking what was going on.

Lizz Cannon, who was in Ybor until about 2:30 a.m., returned with a group. She lived through a shooting when she was 19. She said she felt for the families.

”Even if we made guns illegal,” she said, “I don’t know there’s a solution.”

Cannon added that her group had a long discussion about whether or not to come out on Sunday, but decided to anyway.

”You can’t let fear and negativity win,” she said.

Duffy, from New York New York Pizza, watched Sunday as the streets began to reopen and clear.

“I love the Ybor community,” she said. “We’re very tight-knit. We’ll bounce back.”

Due to information provided to the Times by the Tampa Police Department, an earlier version of this story had an incorrect number of wounded. Two people were killed and 16 were wounded.

Times staff writer Justin Garcia and photographer Ivy Ceballo contributed to this report.