Salem Radio Network News Sunday, February 25, 2024

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Tampa teen faces murder charge in mass shooting on Halloween weekend

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A 14-year-old boy has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of a 20-year-old during a Halloween weekend mass shooting that left two people dead and 16 injured in Tampa’s Ybor City, officials said.

“This defendant is a perfect example of why we must take a strong stance against juvenile gun violence in our community,” Hillsborough State Attorney Suzy Lopez said during a Wednesday night news conference announcing the charges.

The teen is also charged with attempted aggravated battery and attempted murder in connection to the shooting, Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw said. He said bullets and shell casings connected the teen to the 20-year-old victim, Harrison Boonstoppel.

The shooting happened after an argument broke out between two groups in the early morning hours of Oct. 29 as people were celebrating Halloween in one of Tampa’s entertainment districts.

Later that day, detectives arrested Tyrell Stephen Phillips, 22, who was charged with second-degree murder with a firearm. He is accused of killing 14-year-old Elijah Wilson.

A third suspect authorities believe fired shots into a crowd of people has been charged with attempted second-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm, Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw said Thursday at a news conference. He was identified as Dwayne Tillman Jr., 21. It wasn’t immediately clear if Tillman has a lawyer to speak for him.

“It is clear he had absolutely no regard for human life,” Bercaw said, although it isn’t yet clear if Tillman’s bullets struck anyone.

Bercaw said detectives believe there was one additional shooter and noted a $27,000 reward is offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

A judge last week ordered Phillips to remain in jail until his trial. During that hearing, the man’s father, also named Terrell Phillips, told the judge the shooting was in self-defense and asked that he be released from jail, WFLA reported.

“My son is righteous and he’s responsible and he’s accountable and he has an incredible amount of integrity,” Terrell Phillips said.

The man’s attorney, David Parry, said during the hearing that the younger Phillips fired because he thought someone in the other group reached for a gun, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The prosecutor suggested that the teenager charged with the murder of Boonstoppel, who the AP is not naming due to his age, had a previous criminal record. He will be charged as an adult, which is allowed under Florida law for many violent and non-violent felonies.

“He’s no stranger to the juvenile justice system, but he will no longer be treated like a juvenile,” Lopez said.

Police are searching for other suspects. Neither the teen nor Phillips have been charged with any of the other shootings that happened that night.

Boonstoppel’s mother spoke about her son during Wednesday’s news conference.

“I have been the mother of mothers watching over him my whole life,” Brucie Boonstoppel told reporters. “This is just senseless and we have to do something as a community to make it better for everybody, and I plan on doing that.”

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