A Clearwater beach shooting has left two people shot and eight in custody after a large-scale fight broke out in the popular vacation spot, sending holiday crowds scrambling for cover.
A city spokeswoman said the fight stemmed from an argument between two groups of people, noting that it did not appear to be random. The Clearwater beach shooting took place in front of the Hyatt Regency, with the shooter reportedly firing from a hotel parking garage.
The shooting created a scene of chaos as those looking to kick off the Memorial Day weekend with an evening at the beach ran for cover.
“People ran like ants,” David Bundy, who was eating at a nearby pizza restaurant when the shooting took place, told the Tampa Bay Times. “We went inside because no one knew where the shooter was or how many there were.”
Other witnesses said the crowd was frightened as they fled the gunshots.
“I saw people pushed down to the concrete. It wasn’t a good scene,” said Cody Holdsworth, a 23-year-old server at a Crabby Bill’s restaurant. “My customers were scared.”
Many beachgoers noted that unruly crowds of young people had clogged the area all day, with many of them shouting at each other and blaring radios with little police presence.
But Clearwater spokesperson Joelle Castelli said police were adequately prepared.
“Safety is our No. 1 priority,” she said. “I’d bring my family here tomorrow.”
A SWAT team entered the Hyatt just before 10 pm, and authorities said the hotel was locked down and searched room to room. Police also closed access to the beach, creating a logjam of traffic on nearby roads.
Police were able to take eight people in custody after the Clearwater beach shooting, but said they had not arrested any of them yet. But police said they found multiple guns and could soon be lodging weapons charges against the group.
The Clearwater beach shooting was part of a spate of violence nationwide to kick off Memorial Day weekend. In Indianapolis, a shooting in the parking lot near the Indy 500 track left one person dead, and in Myrtle Beach three people were shot and killed in front of a busy boardwalk.
One of the victims in the Clearwater beach shooting was taken to a hospital in Tampa Bay while the other victim was shot in the hand and left the scene without going to the hospital. The beach was closed during the investigation.