A North Miami Beach football coach and team are grieving along with family members after one of their own fell victim to Saturday's deadly shooting at ZombiCon in Fort Myers, Florida.
The football team at ASA junior college in North Miami Beach is in its first year, and Coach Ernest Jones said 20-year-old Expavious Tyrell Taylor was an integral part of that team.
The player Jones described as an "energizer bunny" was shot and killed when a gunman opened fire at the annual ZombieCon event Saturday night around 11:45 p.m., just 15 minutes before the event officially ended. Fort Myers police said Taylor 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.
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Police have identified four of the surviving victims as Hunter Tyree, 20, of Fort Myers; David Perez, 22, of Naples; Isaiah James Knight, 18, of Fort Myers; and Kyle Garick Roberts, 20, of Port Charlotte.
Taylor was from Clewiston, which is near Lake Okeechobee. Jones said his loss is extremely difficult for the newly formed team.
"Great teammate, great energy, great excitement," Jones told NBC 6 of Taylor. "He always comes to work with a smile on his face each and every day. Great student in the classroom. The classroom was important to him, and football was important to him. He was like an energizer bunny to our football team."
The team took Monday off to deal with the tragedy but will be back first thing Tuesday morning.
Taylor was one of thousands gathered at the annual event Saturday night when shots rang out. He had been at the event for less than 45 minutes when gunfire erupted, killing him and wounding five others.
His girlfriend, 26-year-old Jasimne Gaure, told the News-Press they weren't sure until the last minute that they'd even attend the Saturday night festival. But the offensive lineman had the weekend off and they wanted to make the most of their free time.
Gaure said they were waiting in line for a drink when gunfire erupted. Everyone hit the ground for safety and when they raised their heads, Taylor was motionless, still wearing a creepy clown mask.
Gaure told the newspaper Taylor had an interest in forensic science and wanted to become a mortician. She said he was heading in "the right direction.''
Saturday's chaotic scene sent throngs of crowd goers running through the streets. Large crowds were still in the streets and authorities cleared out nearby bars and set up crime scene tape, while others patrolled the area with rifles searching for a suspect.
When the gunshots rang out, 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 of the shooting. "A mass of people ran screaming and trying to get in the shop.''
Authorities said the suspect or suspects were still at large and did not release any information about a possible motive. They were reviewing surveillance videos from nearby restaurants and shops in search of clues.
"There were a lot of witnesses down here, there were a lot of people taking pictures, videos with their cellphone," Medico told the News-Press. "Anything that could help with this investigation would be greatly appreciated."
Police did not immediately return email and phone messages on Sunday seeking more details. Medico told reporters the agency had been inundated with national media requests and would not be making any comments "as we tirelessly investigate this incident and gather as many facts as possible."
The annual festival had been expected to draw more than 20,000 fans dressed as zombies, the News-Press said. Medico said the scene was described as "shoulder to shoulder."
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, decomposing corpses. One restaurant posted signs warning visitors that ZombiCon participants were not welcome.
"Quarantined. No Zombies allowed,'' the signs read.
Several members fof 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, 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.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to pay for Taylor's funeral expenses.