The recent spate of random shootings in the country continued with an unidentified gunman shooting five people in downtown Florida’s ZombiCon festival, a massive zombie-themed charity street fest that features live music performances, and various acts including magic shows, fire dancing and acrobatics. Four people have been wounded seriously and carried to the Lee Memorial Hospital nearby, according to latest reports, while at least one death has been confirmed by the authorities.
[Update] Police have identified the dead victim of ZombiCon shooting as Expavious Tyrell Taylor of Okeechobee, Florida, according to Naples News.
The identities of the victims have not been disclosed as of yet, and the exact circumstances of the shooting remain unclear.
Detectives have been scanning the area for witnesses, authorities said, appealing people with information to call the Fort Myers Police Department. The suspect remains at large as of this writing.
— Ben Brasch (@ben_brasch) October 18, 2015
According to CNN, festival-goers had gathered in numbers for ZombiCon, the flagship event organized by Pushing Daizies, a group of artists and performers from the Fort Myers area who have been conducting the event since 2007. At about 11:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, just as the event was about to wrap up, the air of mirth and excitement quickly dissipated when a series of gunshots rang through the air, sending crowds out on the streets screaming with fear.
Savannah Holden, a tourist who saw the panic unfolding from her hotel balcony, said the crowds began running in all directions once the shots were fired. “It cleared out fast and cop cars and ambulances came,” she added. She uploaded a short clipping of the ensuing hysteria on Twitter minutes after the incident, in which people can be seen racing down one of the the six exits at the festival.
shooting at zombiecon no biggy pic.twitter.com/z7865AhH5t
— Sav (@savannahholdenn) October 18, 2015
Another witness to the shooting, Desere Lee, who is a student at Florida Gulf State University, testified to NBC News that once the shots were fired, paranoia and fear engulfed the attendees at ZombiCon, with some of them even certain that more shots were to follow.
“I heard four gun shots and saw the crowd 10 feet in front of me part, and everyone turn and start running.”
The performances, which were taking place on 30 live stages across the venue, were halted and the artists were safely escorted by the organizers outside the venue. ZombiCon, which is known for drawing 20,000 attendees with its eclectic mix of music, performance art and magic shows, released an official statement on its Facebook page in the aftermath of the shooting, saying the organizers were “deeply saddened by the news of what happened within the footprint of our event.”
Janet DeMarco, founder of ZombiCon, said the festival organizers are coordinating with the police to extend every help to those affected at the event.
“We are extremely confident in the Fort Myers Police Department and the actions they are taking to apprehend the assailant. Their response was quick and efficient to the incident.”
According to ABC News, detectives along with Crime Scene Technicians are currently canvassing the area for witnesses.
More videos and photos of the chaotic scenes at ZombiCon may find their way on social media soon, as one of the witnesses confirmed that a lot of people were taking videos and photos on their cellphones.
“There was a lot of witnesses down here, there were a lot of people taking pictures, videos with their cellphone. Anything that could help with this investigation would be greatly appreciated.”
Anyone with information about the shooting at ZombiCon is asked to call the Fort Myers Police Department at (239) 321-7700, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS or text message C-R-I-M-E-S (274637) Keyword FMPD.
This article will be updated as more information becomes available.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]