Officials arrest alleged Zombicon killer: updates & reaction
It’s a day many people have been waiting for for quite some time. Over two years have gone by since the deadly shooting at Zombicon in Fort Myers. And now, officials have arrested the alleged shooter.
Law enforcement said they have spent thousands of hours going through tips and surveillance video and interviewing witnesses, never giving up hope that they would solve the 2015 case.
CrimeStoppers said just a year after the shooting that they heard back from a critical tipster but still lacked key information.
On Monday, officials said that it was a tough case to solve because of the costumes many people were wearing for the event.
“I just want you all to imagines this: 20,000 people here in downtown Fort Myers, most of whom were wearing masks covered in fake blood. Many of whom had fake guns,” said Chief Assistant Attorney Amira Fox.
Since the shooting, the city has installed security cameras downtown and settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of the man who was killed.
Law enforcement said this investigation is still very active and is far from over.
THE LATEST FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT
The shooting happened during Zombicon in front of Cabos Cantina, 2224 First St. downtown Fort Myers where six people were shot. Expavious Tyrell Taylor, 20, of Okeechobee, was shot and killed outside Los Cabos Cantina on First Street at about 11:45 p.m.
The other victims were Tyree Hunter, 20, of Fort Myers; David Perez, 22, of Naples; Isiah James Knight, 18, of Fort Myers; Kyle Garick Roberts, 20, of Port Charlotte and John Parsons, 31, of Fort Myers. Hunter and Perez suffered multiple gunshot wounds while Knight and Roberts were shot once, according to police.
All were treated and released from Lee Memorial Hospital except for Parsons, who refused medical attention at the scene.
After repeatedly asking for the public’s help, releasing multiple images from surveillance video and taking many tips through Crimestoppers, it took 2 years, 4 months, 9 days for law enforcement to make the arrest.
23-year-old Jose Bonilla was on the FBI’s and FMPD’s radar for more than two years, but just Monday officials announced his arrest.
“Investigators developed Bonilla as a suspect soon after the incident occurred. Agents with the FBI worked tirelessly along with our investigators to team up and bring this arrest to light,” officials said at Monday’s press conference.
But this was not Bonilla’s only crime. Last year, he was arrested three times for child abuse, domestic violence and trespassing. And in 2016, he was arrested for loitering and resisting arrest.
Bonilla now faces a charge of second-degree murder.
SWFL RESIDENTS REACT
Those who work in downtown Fort Myers are hoping that Bonilla’s arrest makes people more comfortable when they’re in the area.
Crystal Emmons was downtown the night of the shooting and like many, remembers the chaos like it was yesterday.
“Everybody running, everybody screaming, everybody shouting…I was just kind of oblivious, like what’s going on?” she said.
The images were everywhere—people stampeding to safety.
“The fact that the whole city is scared in general to do this, it kind of sucks. Even when you go to an event…they’re not as laid back. Everyone’s kind of intense for the whole event and it’s not as fun,” Emmons said.
“I was just hoping that they would catch the person, and after so much time, I think everybody lost hope—and now we got hope back,” said resident Ryan Hoogerhyde.
Emmons says that now it’s time for downtown Fort Myers to get back to its old self.
“We’re Fort Myers. We have a stigma, and everybody thinks it’s not safe. But when you actually get here…it’s a great community, everybody is super happy-go-lucky. You don’t feel uncomfortable and now it’s going to go back to that and it’s going to be great,” Emmons said.
VICTIM’S FAMILY SPEAKS OUT
The family of the man killed in the shooting is now reacting after the arrest.
Tyrell Taylor’s life was cut short in 2015, but now his brothers and grandmother are speaking out.
“Oh I was ready to got to Fort Myers to talk to somebody. I was very happy about it,” said Estella Wilson, Taylor’s grandmother.
“I was just shocked that they got him. It took so long. I’m just happy that they found him,” added Bernard Washington, Taylor’s brother.
The family is undoubtedly relieved the accused killer if now behind bars.
“I’m more relieved. I have more closure now and now my brother can rest in peace,” said Terrance Saintlot, Taylor’s brother.
For the 6-foot-7 athlete known as the “gentle giant”, his hopes and dreams will live on in his family’s hearts.
“He loved football, basketball, golf, Church. Loved drums. He wanted to be well known all over the world,” Wilson said. “But he didn’t have to go out like that. There was a lot of things in this world that he wanted to do and he wanted to be. He just died too young.”
The family says they have forgiven the accused killer and are leaving it all in God’s hands.
SUSPECT’S FAMILY SPEAKS OUT
Jose Bonilla’s family says they were shocked by his arrest, and are unsure if Bonilla pulled the trigger.
“My mom is going through a hard time right now. She just found out what happened,” said Bonilla’s sister.
“I can’t say he did it, I can’t say he didn’t. I can’t say,” she added.
Bonilla’s sister says he was a problem for their family.
“He got arrested. We had trespassing at my house. We had a problem with my brother,” she said.
A neighbor at Bonilla’s home address says he had seen deputies pick him up. And on Monday, before Bonilla’s charges for the deadly shooting, that neighbor, Eddie Hernandez, said he saw men searching the home next to him.
“A couple of times the cop came and could pick him up,” Hernandez said. “They were picking him up and they had him in cuffs.”