ROYAL, Fla. - One person is dead and nine others are injured after a small town’s annual Father’s Day event was disrupted by gunfire.
The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office arrested Raphael Tyree Thomas, 22, and charged him for the killing of Cornecia Smikle, 25, as well as wounding nine others.
"I just, I don’t even know. Words can’t even explain what I’m feeling right now," said Cornecia’s cousin, Shanti Holder.
Holder struggled for the words to describe her beloved cousin who Holder considered her sister.
Smikle was gunned down at a Father’s Day event in Royal Park.
"That was my sister. My baby. We giggle. We stay up all night and eat snacks and candy when we weren’t supposed to. That’s the side of her that I know," Holder said.
The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office arrested Thomas as he tried to hide under a car. He was later charged with murder, eight counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and possession of a weapon for a convicted felon.
All 10 people shot were known to each other. Holder says most of which were family. One of them remains in the ICU.
"I think, unfortunately, these are some children who are ignorant and selfish and not thinking," Holder said. "This is the result of it."
Investigators say when Thomas came across the group, he pulled out a gun and started shooting.
"I heard some boom, boom and then boom, boom again," Alexander James said.
James was cooking when he heard the shots and saw people running. He says it’s the first time in the event's long history anything like this has ever happened.
The annual Father’s Day event, he says, started in 1965 as a small-town gathering has grown into something that the community feels they no longer have control over.
It’s gotten so big now, cutting it out can’t happen," James said. "All you have to do is somebody put it on Facebook and they are here."
Holder says she has been with family all day as they try to make sense of the violence. She says Smikle’s brother was also killed only two weeks ago.
A $1000 reward is being offered for anyone with additional information. You can call in tips to Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.