It was supposed to be an enjoyable night for hundreds of people in Tampa, Florida. Party-goers, many in costumes, filled the streets of Ybor City on the Saturday before Halloween, and then gunshots rang out.
What led to a shooting that left 16 people injured and two dead? And who is responsible for the shots that littered the street?
A Night Ends with Gunshots
When the bars and nightclubs began to close on October 29, 2023, in Ybor City, a nightlife and entertainment district in Tampa, Florida, hundreds of people filled the streets. The main street, 7th Avenue, was shut down to accommodate the rush of people leaving at closing time.
It was almost 3 a.m., and groups of people, many of them dressed in Halloween costumes, gathered in the street near Tangra Nightclub and Centro Ybor.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, it was around this time when two groups began to have an altercation.
Tyrell Stephen Phillips, 22, says he waved at a friend he saw in the distance when several young men approached him in an “aggressive manner.” One person took a “fighting stance,” and a second spat at him. He said a third person reached toward his waistband. Phillips says he thought the person was reaching for a gun, so he pulled out his.
Phillips later admitted to police that he shot his gun two times.
Phillip’s shots ignited a scene of chaos, and police believe at least two other people fired guns in response to the shooting, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times.
Multiple videos on social media show the distressing scene. People fell to the ground. Some ran for cover. Sixteen people were injured — fifteen with gunshot wounds — and two were left dead.
Who Fired the Shots?
Roughly 50 police officers had been patrolling the area at the time of the shooting. Their response was quick, but they are still struggling to uncover exactly what happened.
It was immediately clear that two people were seriously injured. Harrison Boonstoppel, 20, an innocent bystander who was not involved in the altercation, was shot three times and rushed to the hospital where he would later die from his injuries.
A teenager, 14-year-old Elijah Wilson died on the scene.
At the scene, Phillips approached police and said he was one of the people who fired shots. He explained to officers that he thought he was acting in self-defense. Police found a loaded Glock 29 10mm pistol in his front waist pocket. Phillips said he fired two shots, and police later found three shell casings that matched his gun.
Phillips said Wilson was one of the people who confronted him. Police found a loaded gun on Wilson, but the weapon was still holstered and appeared to be unused.
In total, seventeen people were shot that night. Police say Phillips and at least two other people fired guns that filled the streets with bullets. Now, they are trying to determine who fired the other guns.
Searching for More Shooters
Security cam and social media footage have given police a collection of videos to review.
Police say one video confirms that Wilson is the one who spat at Phillips. While the video doesn’t show Wilson make a move to draw his gun, it does show another one of the young men with him appear to make a motion toward his waistband.
There was enough evidence to charge Phillips with second-degree murder in the death of Wilson.
Police are now trying to determine who else fired shots that night and who is responsible for the death of Boonstoppel.
The Tampa Bay Police Department has partnered with the FBI to create a website where citizens can submit tips and upload photos and videos that can help investigators identify other shooters. Police have also released a video that shows multiple individuals police would like to question about the incident.
If you have questions about a pending criminal case, schedule a call with TJ Grimaldi. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023.
Supporting Those Impacted by Gun Violence
As the Executive Director and a Board Member of The Oulson Family Foundation, TJ Grimaldi works to support young people impacted by gun violence. The Oulson Family Foundation is a non-profit that was created to honor the life and legacy of Chad Oulson. Oulson’s life ended too soon after a senseless act of gun violence.
The Oulson Family Foundation helps children get the resources they need in the wake of being impacted by gun violence. Learn more about The Oulson Family Foundation and see how you can help support children impacted by gun violence.