TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The U.S. Attorney’s Office said a pair of high-profile shootings, one outside a Tampa nightclub, the other in the parking lot of a popular local mall, were part of an ongoing dispute between two violent local gangs.
Officials with Tampa Police and the Department of Justice announced the findings Wednesday as part of a crackdown on violent crime in the bay area.
“Every community member has the absolute right to feel safe in their homes and in their neighborhoods,” said Tampa Police Interim Chief Lee Bercaw.
The most high-profile examples were a shooting outside Truth Nighclub in Tampa that injured 8 in 2020, and a shootout in the parking lot of the International Plaza that followed. Fortunately, while cars were damaged in the mall shooting, no one was hurt.
Investigators now believe that rival gangs based in Robles Park and West Tampa were behind the two shootings and other violent crimes in the city.
The violence led to a coordinated crackdown by federal and local law enforcement.
“The Tampa Police Department, ATF, the FBI, and the United States Attorney’s Office, worked together to charge 91 defendants in federal court,” U.S. Attorney of the Middle District Roger Handberg said. “Members of violent groups typically constitute less than half a percent of cities population, but those individuals are typically involved in 60 to 70% percent of a cities shootings and homicides.”
Interim Chief Bercaw said the work is paying off.
“In 2022, we had an 18.9% increase in the number of guns seized — taken off the street. That number is approximately 243 more guns out of the hands than the year before,” Chief Bercaw said.
The hope is that these arrests will send a clear message to local gangs.
“If you are thinking of committing a violent crime in Tampa, you better think twice. You’re going to get arrested, you’re going to get prosecuted, and it’s not just the Tampa Police Department,” Bercaw added.
He also urged the community to help by making sure guns don’t get into the wrong hands in the first place.
“We had 198 firearms stolen from unlocked vehicles in 2022. We ask that you keep your vehicles locked, and most importantly, keep your gun secure and out of the hands of those you should not have them,” he said.