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The family of a victim in the Ybor City shooting is calling for gun safety reforms

A young woman cries on her fathers shoulder and holds a candle. Others stand around holding signs to "end gun violence."
Octavio Jones
Harrison Boonstoppel, 20, was one of two people killed during the shooting in Ybor City last weekend. His family joined gun safety advocates for a vigil to end gun violence on Wednesday evening.

During a vigil for the victims, the mother of Harrison Boonstoppel says her son died "for absolutely no reason." She and other gun safety advocates say they'll fight to keep others from the same fate.

The family of a young man killed in last weekend’s shooting in Ybor City is calling for action to curb gun violence.

Harrison Boonstoppel, 20, was an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire when at least one man began shooting during a fight in the popular entertainment district early Sunday.

Boonstoppel’s loved ones joined dozens of gun safety advocates and Tampa area officials for a vigil on Wednesday evening near the scene of the crime.

His mother Brucie and her family wept as she shared fond memories of Harrison, whom she said was a “lovely, wonderful young man that has kept us smiling his whole 20 years.”

She said she felt she had prepared him and his siblings to be aware of their surroundings when out with friends in case of danger, but never thought something like this could happen.

“And the fact that of all these poor kids and people that got shot for absolutely no reason, my son died,” she said through tears. “And his two friends that were with him are in shock.”

A woman stands in front of microphones looking grief-stricken. A crowd of advocates stand behind her.
Octavio Jones
Brucie Boonstoppel grieved the loss of her son Harrison in Sunday's shooting and renewing calls for increased gun safety.

Boonstoppel said a medical examiner recently informed her that Harrison was shot three times and died quickly.

She shared her condolences with the family of the 14-year-old boy who was also killed in the shooting, Elijah Wilson. The gunfire injured 15 other people, while a 16th was also hurt in the commotion.

Boonstoppel said she has marched for gun reform in the past and said her son’s death is driving her to fight harder for change.

“It’s not a time to just say, ‘This is terrible, we’ve got to do something about it,’ this is time for us to really push, push, push,” she said.

Group of people march along the street holding signs. Police officers accompany them.
Octavio Jones
Roughly 60 individuals attended Wednesday evening's vigil, which included a silent march along the streets of Ybor City.

Attendees at the vigil quietly marched through the streets of Ybor City toward the site of the shooting along East Seventh Ave. Groups like Moms Demand Action, 813 Stop the Violence and Rise Up for Peace held signs recognizing the victims and calling to end gun violence.

Democratic State Rep. Dianne Hart was among them and said the shooting was personal to her: members of her family were in Ybor when it happened.

“My grandson was right there and had to run for his life, fell down, knees all skinned up,” she said.

Hart said the event was tragic but stressed it's not the only shooting to care about.

“Every single week in my district I'm losing a young person,” she said. “Gun violence is taking over East Tampa, West Tampa and out in Suitcase City.”

Hart said she remains committed to push for gun control legislation and urged residents to vote for lawmakers with similar views.

State Rep. Dianne Hart (D-Tampa) speaks in a park.
Octavio Jones
Rep. Dianne Hart called attention to the many others who die in Tampa every year from community violence.

One shooter is in custody but police were still searching for two others they suspect could have been involved in the fight that turned deadly.

“We cannot have people feel like firearms and guns are the only answer to the problems that are happening with them," said Freddy Barton, executive director of Safe & Sound Hillsborough, the county’s violence prevention collaborative.

Barton said the issues are clear when it comes to addressing gun violence.

“The problem is guns are accessible too much to our kids and in the community,” he said. “We already know that a lot of our guns, over 80% of our guns, are taken from unlocked cars. We also know that we don’t have a lot of mental health supports, we don’t have community supports ... We have got to take a stand right here right now.”

Man stands with other gun safety advocates at a rally
Octavio Jones
Freddy Barton leads the county's violence prevention collaborative Safe and Sound Hillsborough and more needs to be done to keep guns out of young people's hands.

The Tampa City Council is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. on Thursday morning and officials are expected to discuss several proposals to promote safety in Ybor.

Council Member Gwen Henderson has suggested that the city should require bars and other venues to close at 1 a.m. The shooting broke out just before 3 a.m., when many businesses typically shut down and revelers pour into the streets.

At the vigil, Council Member Luis Viera would not say whether he supported that yet but said he is open to ideas.

“A lot of these things you have to talk to all of the community about, you have to have advice from legal staff, etc.” he said. “So what I always like to say with proposals like this is we can date them and then we can see if we can marry them later on.”

Viera said supporting victims' families is his priority.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.