Innocent bystanders become latest victims of Bay area gun violence

Tampa, Florida -- Yesterday's deadly shooting at a park in West Tampa is again raising the issue of gun control in the Bay area, and whether police are doing all they can to protect you and your family.

A rash of shootings involving completely innocent bystanders underscores how anyone can suddenly, even in the most unexpected of circumstances, become a victim of gun violence.

On Sunday, the serenity of an Easter family picnic was shattered by deadly gunfire at Tampa's Al Barnes Park.

Innocent people had to run for cover as bullets flew.

Alton Gaines, a neighbor who walks in the park daily, calls it a peaceful place. He won't let the violence stop him from using the park, he says, but that it's a "shame" what occurred here.

"And for something like that to happen yesterday, it's really, you know, a terrible tragedy," he says.

Last week, a 4-year-old Tampa boy was shot as he walked with his mother. The stray bullet that struck his came from a shooting a few blocks away.

In St. Petersburg a day earlier, a man was sitting in his own home when a bullet pierced his window and grazed his eye. The shot was one of several fired by a man who was aiming at two others sitting in a car parked near the house.

"It's very scary," says gun-control advocate Elizabeth Corwin. Too many people are becoming innocent casualties of gun violence, she says.

This week alone, it occurred in a park, on a public street, and in a man's own home.

Corwin blames legislators for not enacting tougher gun laws. On the contrary, she says, Florida has loosened them.

That, she believes, make it dangerous for the public, and ever-more difficult for law enforcement.

"I just think the laws that exist are not on the side of the police either. And most police want to see greater gun control, background checks, and things like that," says Corwin.

Tampa police insist they are proactive, using a combinations of old-school patrol techniques and new media tools. The department, for example, has an app that lets people report criminal activity anonymously.

In situations like the shooting Easter Sunday, they say they needed people at the park to be proactive too. In this case, they say, one of the victims was a teenager who had just been released from prison and had removed his ankle bracelet. One of those arrested is a felon who was illegally armed.

"We're pretty sure that some of them were aware that some of these individuals were armed with firearms," says TPD spokesperson Janelle McGregor, "And in a situation like this, we could have arrived at the park and prevented this fatality from going on if someone had spoken up and said something."

Tampa police are still asking anyone with information in Sunday's shooting to come forward. A candlelight vigil is planned for 7:00 p.m. Monday at the park.

If you would like to check out the TPD app, go to the App Store compatible with your smart phone or tablet and search for "Tampa Police Department."


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