Grace Carney, Staff Writer
On Saturday, October 17 in Fort Myers, Florida, thousands of people gathered to attend an annual street festival, ZombiCon, an unconventional street fair that was created to celebrate George Romero’s thriller film, Day of the Dead. At the Halloween-horror themed event, children and adults alike excitedly prepared to participate in fun activities such as costume contests, interactive art, music booths, and live performances ranging from musicians to magicians, fire dancers, and acrobats.
This year at 11:44 p.m., only a few minutes before the event officially ended, a young, unidentified man ran rampant amongst the crowd, firing a gun towards nearby people. The shooting resulted in the death of a 20 year old college student, as well as five other people receiving traumatic physical injuries. The victims were subsequently driven to Lee Memorial Hospital, except for one who denied immediate medical aid. The shooting spurred chaos and confusion on the streets of Fort Myers. As policemen dove into the crowd, setting up crime scene tape and hovering around areas in search of the perpetrator, ZombiCon guests evacuated the scene.
Florida authorities have been bombarded with questions regarding the shooting. Many have been examining surveillance videos in an attempt to detect the killer. A few witnesses were able to take photos and videos of the action, which may contain some evidence of the horrific evening.
The incident has now frightened away many fans, which may diminish the event’s popularity in succeeding years. Ironically, several festival-goers were dressed in spooky, deranged, Halloween-themed apparel and makeup, particularly as zombies and other gory creatures, in spirit of the event. The alleged homicidal killer was also dressed up in such a way to disguise himself thoroughly, which results in a more challenging hunt to find the shooter. One woman reacted to the shooting by exclaiming that she wouldn’t attend another ZombiCon festival, as she could no longer trust that anyone dressed up as a zombie carrying weapons purchased from a Halloween-themed store aren’t simply carrying faux horror accessories, but may actually be holding lethal weapons.
Many local restaurants and shops have stated that they will remain closed to visitors and guests from now on during future ZombiCon festivals. A handful of religious organizations have held protests to diminish the event altogether since the shooting. Mayor Randall Henderson Jr. has reacted by urgently pressing for security cameras to be installed in the downtown area of Fort Myers. He has also insinuated that it is difficult to prevent such occurrences because they happen sporadically and late at night.
The organizers of the ZombiCon event are saddened for the victims of the shooting, and deeply disappointed by the negative media attention their unique entertainment fair has received. They have also publicly apologized for the unanticipated violence that broke out and startled thousands in the area.