Fort Myers police released a description of a suspect in the deadly shooting at a zombie festival and said Monday they had heavily scrutinized a bystander’s video showing ghoulish-dressed revelers screaming and running in every direction after four gunshots rang out.
No arrests have been made and police have not released a motive in Saturday’s shooting, which killed one person and wounded five others. The chaotic scene sent throngs of crowd goers pouring through the streets.
The shooting happened around 11:45 p.m., just 15 minutes before the event officially ended. Large crowds were still in downtown Fort Myers and authorities quickly cleared out nearby bars and set up crime scene tape, while others patrolled the area with rifles searching for a suspect.
“The Fort Myers Police Department would like to thank the many tipsters who are providing information as we vigorously work to solve this heinous crime. Please keep the tips coming as they are invaluable,” the department said in a statement.
Authorities said the shooter is a white or possibly Hispanic man in his late teens or early twenties. He was dressed in a black T-shirt and wore a flat-billed black and red ball cap. He was spotted firing a black semi-automatic handgun.
Police also released a video from someone who was at the festival. In the footage, hundreds of people in costume could be seen milling around, some having their photos taken with a person dressed in a large skull head and holding a scepter. Four loud pops can be heard in the video, and then people started to run.
Jill Stancel watched as a crowd of face painted, fake blood-spattered ZombiCon revelers ran through the streets in terror. She quickly gathered her family and several passing strangers inside her family’s barbershop and locked the door.
“I was right here,” Stancel said. “A mass of people ran screaming and trying to get in the shop.”
Fort Myers Police Lt. Victor Medico said Expavious Tyrell Taylor, a 20-year-old who played football at ASA College, a junior college in Miami, died at the scene. Four others were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries and one additional victim refused medical attention, authorities said.
Authorities were reviewing surveillance videos from nearby restaurants and shops in search of clues.
Jasmine Gaure, Taylor’s girlfriend, told the newspaper they had only been at the festival for about 45 minutes. They were standing in line for a drink and hit the ground with everyone else when they heard the shots. When everyone raised their heads a few minutes later, Taylor was motionless, still wearing his creepy clown mask.
Gaure, 26, said Taylor was interested in forensic science and had worked a funeral home preparing bodies for burial to get experience. He was hoping to become a mortician.
“He was heading in the right direction, he was going to be somebody,” Gaure said.
ASA football coach Ernest Jones told the newspaper Taylor “stood out.” He was a walk-on player and was one of 6 out of 200 who made the cut in an August tryout.
The annual festival had been expected to draw more than 20,000 fans dressed as zombies.
A statement on the ZombiCon Facebook page said organizers were saddened by the news and the group takes the safety of its patrons very seriously.
ZombiCon has been a popular event for nearly a decade, but some local residents and business owners have not welcomed the crowd of costumed revelers in the street dressed as limping, bloated, degrading corpses. One restaurant posted signs warning visitors that ZombiCon participants were not welcome. “Quarantined. No Zombies allowed,” the signs read.
Several members from a religious group also picketed the event this weekend.
Mayor Randall P. Henderson Jr. said the shooting would speed up plans to install security cameras throughout downtown. The ZombiCon shooting is the latest of several shootings, which the mayor said are difficult to prevent because they are often random and late at night. Yet he said the cameras would make it easier to catch criminals quickly.
“Sadly, we’re moving in that direction. We need to be way more vigilant to keep citizens safe,” he said.