Brucie Boonstoppel said she’s only felt a few rare moments of peace since the death of her 20-year-old son — one of two people killed in a shooting in Ybor City early Sunday morning.
She said she felt it while reading comforting words from family and friends, and again when she went to a funeral home Wednesday to make arrangements for Harrison Boonstoppel. But that feeling came crashing down after she received a call from the medical examiner’s office.
“And then I found out he was shot three times,” she said. “I’m still kind of in disbelief about it all.”
On Wednesday, Brucie Boonstoppel said they told her that Harrison Boonstoppel had been shot in the spleen, liver and heart.
Fifteen others were wounded by gunfire, and another person was injured but not shot, police said. They have not released the names of any of them, citing Marsy’s Law, but Brucie Boonstoppel says her son was one of those killed. Family members of Elijah Wilson, 14, have identified him as the other fatality early Sunday.
Since learning of her son’s death, Brucie Boonstoppel has barely slept. She said she’s been through fits of intense crying, and she started taking sedatives to combat bouts of insomnia.
Brucie Boonstoppel said her son told her that he and his two friends were stopping by Ybor after leaving a nearby Halloween party. Then one friend showed up at her door and told her Harrison Boonstoppel had been shot.
“They were only there 20 minutes,” she said, holding back tears. “They weren’t there for the party. They were just there to check it out. And they happened to be right by where the argument started.”
A gunfight broke out after the argument between two groups on the 1600 block of East Seventh Avenue, police say.
Police arrested Tyrell Phillips, 22, on a charge of second-degree murder with a firearm after he approached officers and admitted to firing a gun just hours after the shooting, according to a pretrial detention motion.
Phillips is charged in the death of the 14-year-old. There have been no arrests or charges brought yet in the 20-year-old’s death.
On Wednesday, Tampa City Council member Gwen Henderson proposed a six-month curfew that would close businesses in Ybor at 1 a.m., and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said she supported a juvenile curfew in the area starting at 1 a.m.
About 50 residents, community leaders and advocates came together Wednesday evening to mourn those killed. Roosters bobbed and crowed between the crowd at Centennial Park in Ybor City.
Brucie Boonstoppel said she has been a longtime advocate for increasing gun regulations, but “never in a million years” did she imagine she would be telling her own story about gun violence.
Rep. Dianne Hart, a Democrat who represents East Tampa in the Florida House of Representatives, said her 19-year-old grandson was there when the shots were fired. He came home with skinned knees after dropping to the floor trying to evade gunshots.
“He had to run for his life,” she said.
Hart said that gun violence is frequent in her district and appears to be increasing.
“This was a true tragedy Sunday morning,” she said. “But we have a tragedy here every day.”
Hart called for a curfew and crackdown on local clubs that she said may be turning a blind eye to dangerous behavior. She said she hopes people don’t feel unsafe in Ybor after the shooting.
“I believe they will be safe,” Hart said. “I hope that this is an isolated incident.”
Local gun violence advocacy groups Moms Demand Action, Rise Up for Peace and Safe and Sound Hillsborough hosted the somber event.
Gail Powell-Cope, an organizer with Tampa’s Moms Demand Action, said she tried to create a quiet, solemn space that allowed people to grieve.
The gathering began with a moment of silence for the victims.
“Today we’re focused on the two young men who lost their lives, and their families and friends,” she said. “We want to lift them up. We want to support them. We want to do anything we can to help ease their burden.”
Powell-Cope said commonsense gun laws are needed to keep children safe. She called for a ban on “assault-style weapons.”
“I hope that people roll up their sleeves and do the hard work it takes to prevent this kind of thing — not only what happened here in Tampa, but other kinds of violence and suicide as well,” she said. “Things don’t change overnight, and they don’t change by wishing it.”
Police said Tuesday they are looking for at least two additional people who fired shots, and they urged anyone with photos or videos from the incident to submit them to a portal at fbi.gov/tampashooting.