The man who opened fire at ZombiCon in Fort Myers, Florida, on Saturday night used a husband and wife as human shields, one festivalgoer told The Daily Beast.
Police are searching for a man suspected of killing Expavious Tyrell Taylor, 20, and wounding five others at the zombie-themed street carnival. The unidentified suspect fired several shots then fled. It’s unclear if he was targeting Taylor, a junior-college football player, who was pronounced dead on the scene.
A spectator told The Daily Beast the gunman fired over his shoulder, ripping his shirt and singeing his wife’s hair.
“We were standing right there… he ran up behind us and put his gun on my shoulder and just started shooting,” said Josh, who requested his last name be withheld for fear of retaliation by the at-large suspect. “The gun ripped my shirt.”
“He ran up behind me and used his left arm to brace himself on my back and fired four shots,” Josh added. “He used me and my wife pretty much as a shield. If the other guy had a gun, me and my wife would’ve been shot.”
Two bullets passed through the woman’s hair as the gunman fired from behind.
“It seared her hair as the flames came out of the gun,” he said, adding, “I still can’t hear out of my left ear.”
Josh said the gunman was approximately six feet tall, Hispanic, and wearing a black shirt with white lettering across the front. He said he could easily identify the suspect in a police lineup.
“I could tell you what his breath smells like and who he is for sure, 100 percent,” Josh said.
The annual charity event descended into chaos when the suspect fired shots around 11:45 p.m.—just 15 minutes before the festival’s end.
The walking dead ran for their lives and fled into nearby businesses until the commotion was over. One participant told NBC 2 she had no idea if the gunfire “was real or fake” amid the sea of corpse-look-alikes standing shoulder to shoulder.
On Monday, Fort Myers police released their first details on the suspect, who is described as a white or possibly Hispanic man in his late teens or early twenties. He was wearing a black T-shirt and flat-billed black-and-red ball cap, and fired a black semi-automatic handgun.
Cops also released released video of the tumultuous scene in hopes of garnering more tips from the public.
Fort Myers’s interim police chief, Dennis Eads, told reporters Monday that the scene’s costumes made law enforcement’s job even harder.
“It’s very difficult to make a determination between a fake gun and a real gun,” Eads said at news conference. “At the very minimum it would be a nightmare. At that point [when shots are fired], then you have 15,000 or 20,000 suspects.”
Ead said cops are pursuing several leads and that he’s “very confident that we will find out who did this,” NBC 2 reported.
Police could not say whether the shooting was targeted or random.
Still, relatives of victim Tyrell Taylor did not believe he was a target. Taylor didn’t drink or smoke and was a drummer in his church band, they said. His aunt summed up his fate for the Naples Daily News: “Wrong place at the wrong time,” she said.
An offensive lineman for ASA College in North Miami Beach, Taylor wanted to become a mortician, his girlfriend, Jasmine Gaure, said. He was interested in forensic science and previously worked at a funeral home, she said.
The victim was wearing a clown mask when he was killed.
“We just were standing there and then we heard the shots, and then we all got down,” Gaure told the News-Press. “When we all picked our heads up to check on each other, we saw him lying there on the sidewalk.”
Gaure said the couple wasn’t set on attending the zombie fest but decided to make the most of their weekend together. They were there only 45 minutes, waiting in line for a drink, when shots rang out.
“There was no confrontations before that,” Gaure told the News-Press. “It was unexpected, it was so fast. We were in the wrong place, because we didn’t have problems with anybody there.”
Taylor’s life was marked by tragedy. His father died when he was young, and his mother died in 2013. His son was stillborn in 2014, two months after his grandmother died.
Making matters worse, Taylor’s family was on their way home from a funeral in Georgia when they learned Taylor was fatally shot, according to WINK News.
“I just hope they can catch him, whoever did it,” Taylor’s sister, Amanda Andrews, told the TV station.
“I don’t want to have to walk around with that on my conscious, that my brother’s killer is still at large,” she added. “He could be standing in my face, laughing at me saying, ‘Oh, I killed her brother and I still walked free.’… I hope he turns himself in.”