The 20-year-old college student who was fatally shot at a zombie-themed gathering in Florida over the weekend was enjoying a rare night out with his girlfriend when his life came to a sudden, tragic halt.
One moment, Expavious Taylor was wearing a zombie mask and watching a DJ with his girlfriend. The next, he was lying dead in the street.
“We just were standing there, and then we heard the shots, and then we all got down,” Taylor’s 26-year-old girlfriend, Jasmine Gaure, told the News-Press. “When we all picked our heads up to check on each other, we saw him lying there on the sidewalk.”
“There was no confrontations before that,” she said. “It was unexpected, it was so fast. We were in the wrong place because we didn’t have problems with anybody there.”
Gaure told the paper that the couple nearly avoided the tragedy altogether. The pair went back and forth about whether they should attend this year’s ZombiCon, an annual zombie-themed music and arts festival in downtown Fort Myers, Fla.
They eventually opted for going out because Taylor — an offensive lineman for a junior college in Miami — had a rare weekend off in the heart of football season, according to the News-Press. Taylor, who graduated from Clewiston High School in May, was listed on the roster at ASA College Miami.
“According to Clewiston High’s roster, Taylor was a 6-foot-4, 240-pound offensive lineman/defensive end his senior year for the Tigers,” the News-Press reported.
Police are still looking for a suspect who opened fire on the crowd of revelers, killing Taylor, wounding five other people and sending throngs of morbid-looking revelers ducking for cover and running through the packed streets. Police have not identified any suspects.
The shooting occurred around 11:45 p.m. Saturday in downtown Fort Myers, where the annual ZombiCon festival was taking place, according to the Associated Press. Police descended on the area, clearing out bars and wrapping the block in crime-scene tape while other officers hunted for the gunman, the AP reported.
“We didn’t know if it was real,” Naples resident Haley Delmonte told NBC affiliate WBBH. “We ran, then we were like, wait … was that real?”
Fort Myers Police Lt. Victor Medico told the AP that the five wounded victims were hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening. Taylor of Okeechobee, Fla., died at the scene, according to the News-Press.
ZombiCon was expected to draw as many as 20,000 people, and, because of the swell of festival-goers, police believe someone may have captured the shooter on camera. Medico described the crowd as “shoulder to shoulder,” according to the AP.
“There were a lot of witnesses down here; there were a lot of people taking pictures, videos with their cellphone,” he told the News-Press. “Anything that could help with this investigation would be greatly appreciated.”
ZombiCon has been an annual event for a decade, according to the AP. A statement on the ZombiCon group’s Facebook page said the organizers were saddened by the news and offered prayers for the victims’ families:
The organizers of Zombicon, Pushing DaiZies, Inc. are deeply saddened by the news of what happened within the footprint of our event. We take the safety of our patrons very seriously and take precautions in hiring security and police officers for our annual event. Our prayers go out to the family members and individuals involved in the incident.
Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson released a statement expressing “profound sadness” over the shooting.
“We pray for all involved in this senseless act of violence,” the written statement said. “I want to reaffirm our commitment to reign in these criminals and assure all citizens of law enforcement’s relentless pursuit of the perpetrators.”
Witnesses described a chaotic scene that began when they heard as many as 10 pops, according to WBBH. The gunfire scattered the terrified crowd, with many not realizing that a shooting had occurred.
One witness, who asked not to be identified, told WBBH that he was 10 feet from the shooter and that the incident felt surreal. “It felt like something you would see in a movie, and this was definitely a horror movie,” he said.
The witness said he and several others were rescued by an armed security guard at a nearby hotel who pulled them into an elevator and hid them on the fifth floor. “I was in shock,” he told WBBH. “I was paralyzed from fear … I honestly thought when I was running toward the hotel, I honestly thought I was going to die … all I was thinking was run.”
Despite being strangers, he said, the tiny group “all turned into family for an hour to protect each other.”
The witness thanked the security guard and offered a few words about the shooter, as well: “He’s not a person, he’s just an animal … he changed thousands of people’s lives in less than five seconds.”
No life, however, was changed more than Taylor’s.
The college student’s sister, Amanda Andrews, 25, told the News-Press that her brother was a church-going, gospel-singing athlete who was trying to build a life for himself after enduring multiple tragedies. In his short life, she told the paper, he’d lost his mother, father, grandmother and a child who died at birth.
Gaure told the paper that Taylor was interested in becoming a mortician and was worked at a funeral home.
“For him to have lost so many people, he stayed focused and didn’t give up,” Andrews told the News-Press. “He pushed and pushed and pushed. He showed us he was going to make something out of himself.”
Pete Walker, Taylor’s football coach at Clewiston, echoed Andrews and said that, despite numerous challenges, Taylor remained determined to make a better life for himself.
“He could have gone the wrong direction with all the things of his life and tried to make something positive of his life,” he told the News-Press. Taylor was “trying to make something of himself. It’s a terrible, terrible, terrible thing to swallow.”