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Guard says she saw nightclub shooter with semi-automatic gun

Fort Myers shooting
Fort Myers shooting 01:52

FORT MEYERS , Fla. -- A security guard at a Florida nightclub where two were killed in a mass shooting early Monday says she saw someone attack with a semi-automatic weapon, spraying bullets in the vicinity.

Brandy Mclaughlin was hired for the event, billed as a party for teens, as a security guard. She says she heard what sounded like firecrackers when the shooting started.

She says the gunman wasn't targeting anyone in particular, adding: "It was an idiot. An idiot with a firearm."

Fort Myers police officers confer next to Club Blu after a shooting attack in Fort Myers, Florida, U.S., July 25, 2016. Joe Skipper/Reuters

CBS affiliate WINK-TV reports the incident at Club Blu in Fort Myers happened around 12:30 a.m. in the parking lot during a "Swimsuit Glow Party" marketed at 12- to 17-year-olds. The shooting happened just as the club was closing and parents were arriving to pick up their children. Two teens were were killed, police said, and nearly 20 others were injured.

The interim Fort Myers police chief says authorities have three persons of interest in custody and they are looking for others in the slayings.

It was not immediately clear what triggered the violence, but authorities said the shooting was not an act of terror. Police detained three people and were searching for others, interim Police Chief Dennis Eads said.

Mclaughlin says her girlfriend, Terry Parnell, who also was hired for the security detail that night, was next to one of the teens who was killed and that she also was shot and wounded in the gunfire.

Mclaughlin says she gave her girlfriend a tourniquet, and Parnell is now doing fine.

Club owner Cheryl Filardi, who said she was in the back room when the shots rang out, said at least 10 security guards were hired for the party - two in the parking lot, one or two at the door and the rest floating inside.

She said the club has had four or five teen parties over the past half-dozen years, and this was the second one this summer. She said the parties are something positive for a rough and often-violent neighborhood.

"To be honest with you, every day someone's getting shot in this area. These days in Lee County, somebody's always shooting," Filardi said. "If we do teen parties, we always have a ton of security and we've never had a problem."

The slain teens were 14-year-old Sean Archilles and 18-year-old Stef'an Strawder, police said. Archilles lived about a mile from the nightclub, and loved to play football and basketball, said his father, Jean Archilles.

"He liked to make people laugh. He's a funny kid. He's always joking," Jean Archilles said.

Strawder starred on the basketball team for Lehigh High School, averaging more than 15 points a game as a junior, according to The News-Press.

"Everyone was afraid to play against him because he was so good. He would guide you and give you advice on how to step up your game and how to guard him and things like that," said 16-year-old Peyton Hebon, who started playing against Strawder in travel basketball leagues in sixth grade.

Strawder was always positive and energetic and was unstoppable on the court, Hebon said.

Four people were in the hospital. Two were in critical condition and two in fair condition, said Lisa Sgarlata, the chief administrative officer at Lee Memorial Health System.

All of the other patients were treated and released. The victims ranged in ages from 12 to 27.

There were two active crime scenes - the club and a street in the area, which also remained closed as police investigated.

Witnesses described the scene at the club as a "madhouse."

After the gunfire ended, the scene outside was overwhelming, a witness named Brian Martin told WINK. Martin said he rushed there because a friend of his was among the victims.

"It was a madhouse people were running every where. All people were saying was their friends' names to see if they're okay -- a lot of phone calls to parents," Martin said. "But it was one of the scariest sights to just see people come pouring out like that."

One woman who lives two blocks from Club Blu said she heard about 30 gunshots from what she believes to have been multiple guns.

When she arrived, people were crying and screaming as others were being carried away in ambulances to Lee Memorial.

"It was unbelievable," she wrote via Facebook.

The shooting in Fort Myers comes a little over a month after the Orlando nightclub massacre, in which 49 people at a gay club were killed by a heavily-armed gunman in an hours-long standoff. It is to date the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

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