Expavious Tyrell Taylor and his girlfriend, Jasmine Gaure, had just arrived at Fort Myers’ ZombiCon when Taylor became the latest victim of a mass shooting in the U.S.
They had their backs to the street, waiting in line to get drinks a mere 45 minutes after arriving at the zombie-themed festival, when shots rang out and “everybody ducked and ran,” Jasmine told the Fort Myers News Press.
“We just were standing there and then we heard the shots, and then we all got down. When we all picked our heads up to check on each other, we saw him lying there on the sidewalk. There was no confrontations before that. It was unexpected, it was so fast. We were in the wrong place because we didn’t have problems with anybody there.”
When it was all over, four people had been shot, and the 20-year-old football player, described as well-liked and hardworking by friends and coaches, was dead. The other victims suffered non life-threatening injuries.
The gunman is still at large and, because Gaure and Taylor had their backs to the street when the shooting occurred, Gaure said she didn’t see the shooter.
About 20,000 people were at ZombiCon Saturday when gunshots sent the crowds, many of them dressed as zombies and coated in fake blood, running for their lives, ABC News reported. The shooting occurred 15 minutes before the event was scheduled to end.
Police are now asking anyone who attended ZombiCon to hand in pictures or cellphone video, hoping that one will have captured the shooting. So far, the gunman has eluded capture.
ZombiCon is a 9-year-old annual event, which takes place in downtown Fort Myers and is described as a “zombie-themed music and art fest.” In its inaugural year, only 500 people attended, but the event has swollen to attract the 20,000 zombie-lovers that showed up for the festivities this weekend.
Following the shooting, some have come forward to criticize event organizers for lax security. ZombiCon has been put on by a nonprofit group called Pushing DaiZies and as its popularity increased, the group began to augment the police officers on site with private security firms. A spokeswoman couldn’t confirm the number of people working security at the time of the shooting.
The group hired Danial Costoulas’ firm, Global Security Group International, in 2013 and 2014, but he pulled out of this year’s event due to a “lack of communication and disorganization” prior to this year’s ZombiCon, he told Naples Daily News.
And in the wake of the shooting, Costoulas has come forward to point out that ZombiCon didn’t have checkpoints, which allowed people to enter the event grounds without being inspected by security. He also said fewer personnel were monitoring the perimeter.
Now, a mass shooting has claimed another life, and Taylor’s high school football coach, Pete Walker, is devastated.
“It’s a tragic story of a young person losing his life over not a whole lot.”
Taylor’s short life was a difficult one, and the people who knew him all mentioned the young man’s strength in the face of adversity and his determination to “be somebody” — as his girlfriend said — despite those hardships.
Expavious had in recent years lost his mother, father, grandmother, and a child at birth. A two-sport athlete who played as offensive lineman at a Miami junior college, he was interested in pursuing either forensic or mortuary science, and worked in a funeral home for job experience.
“Why would somebody do this?” his older sister, Amanda Andrews asked. “Everybody loved him.”
In the wake of the shooting, Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson said there are currently no plans to shut down or move ZombiCon next year.
“I don’t think (ZombiCon) is to blame. That is fool hardy. It’s more reason to come back stronger.”
[Photo Courtesy YouTube Screengrab]