14 arrested in connection to illegal street racing over Gasparilla weekend
TAMPA, Fla. - The Tampa Police Department announced the arrests of at least 14 people over Gasparilla weekend in connection with a series of illegal street races and reckless driving maneuvers during which participants blocked major intersections at times.
Officers described their operations as an attempt to dismantle a planned street racing event throughout the Tampa Bay area. Police became aware of an event circulating on social media, dubbed the "Tampa vs. Everybody" takeover.
According to investigators, participants were sharing information privately via social media apps regarding meeting locations where they would race, or perform stunts, like drifting or donuts.
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"During one of the busiest weekends in Tampa, Gasparilla, Tampa police worked diligently to locate these racers and bring their reckless behavior to a screeching halt. We're thankful for the many residents who saw this event advertised on social media and reached out to police for the safety of their community," Interim Police Chief Lee Bercaw said in a statement. "Putting lives at risk for their own entertainment is extremely careless and unacceptable. We want to send a clear message to anyone thinking of copying the actions of these individuals: You WILL get caught, and your next ride will be to jail."
Videos of the event circulated on social media, showing participants blocking major intersections in downtown Tampa, near Raymond James Stadium and at Gandy and Westshore Boulevards in South Tampa.
Neighbors could hear the commotion from miles away.
"This past weekend, it was going on until three [in the morning]. You can hear them all night just racing," said Kris Hix, who lives in South Tampa. "Someone's going to come into the middle of this and get taken out. Some poor soul who doesn't know what goes on: a tourist, a kid, anyone."
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Illegal street racing meetups aren't a new phenomenon in the Tampa Bay area. Some neighbors say they see or hear it just about every weekend.
In some of the videos, passengers can be seen hanging off the sides of the cars. Spectators can also be seen throwing fireworks or setting fire to the street.
"It's just a matter of time before somebody gets hurt and dies," said Kendall Trosky, who also lives in South Tampa. "You're just being inconsiderate, and you don't care, [you're] narcissistic. You just don't care about the people that live in the area."
In this case, police said several people arrested had guns and drugs; officers confiscated seven firearms. More arrests are expected.