Police say they are working to interview 230 witnesses to the fatal shooting of a 40-year-old man outside Nippers Beach Grille on Thursday night and that a determination about who would face charges in connection with the homicide will likely not be made for days.
Jacksonville Beach police have identified the victim as Zachariah J. Tipton, of Fernandina Beach. He was shot about 8:10 p.m. on the service road of Beach Boulevard just east of the Intracoastal Waterway.
A rescue helicopter was called to the scene, but the victim died before he could be transported to the hospital.
Witnesses said gunfire broke out in the parking lot of Nippers, Billy's Boathouse and Beach Marine during a motorcycle event at the restaurant Thursday night.
"I was just coming out to check on the lot and I saw a fight about to break out with a bunch of guys. Pretty much all I saw so I ran inside to get our bartender," said Maureen McGinnes, Nippers manager on duty Thursday night.
Police said two men at the event got into a fight and one of the men pulled a gun and shot the other in the face.
McGinnes said she didn't see the shooting, but heard the shots and came back out to see Tipton unconscious on the ground.
Lucas Duran, one of the restaurant's bartenders who is combat-trained medic and nursing student, give Tipton CPR, but couldn't save his life.
"There were other shots that were fired, but luckily, thank God, no one else was dead or injured," Duran said.
Thursday night officers had a man in handcuffs and said they thought they had the shooter in custody, but Jacksonville Beach police released a statement Friday afternoon saying, "There are a number of people alleged to have some involvement." Due to the large number of potential witnesses, "the determination of appropriate or possible charges has not been reached at this time."
Police said there would likely be no update released on the investigation before Monday.
People who knew Tipton said he was a independent contractor with three children and fun-loving personality.
"It was a shock," said a friend who frequented the Redneck Yacht Club in Yulee, where Tipton's photo is on the wall. "He'd give his shirt of his back. He was just a great guy who'd never hurt nobody. I've never seen him raise a hand to nobody."
Another friend said Tipton's favorite thing to do was ride.
"He loved riding bikes," said Louis Carr. "That's all he ever did. Pretty much, if you seen him, he was on a bike."
Members of the motorcycle community said they hope this incident won't create a negative image of all bikers.
"We're just like everybody else in the community; we have lives, careers, families and, you know, don't judge a book by a cover and don't judge the whole biker community from this one act of violence," said Sandy Nelson of Orange Park Chrome Divas.
Owner of Nippers, Rudy Theale, said Friday that the restaurant will never host a bike night again.
"I'm very upset about it. I feel terrible for the man that was shot and killed," Theale said. "It was out on the public street and parking lot and we just can't control it. ... It's just one of those things when you deal with people in the public forum, and you've got so many people coming in and out, you just can't always control what takes place outside of your restaurant."
The popular restaurant opened on schedule at 11 a.m. Friday and had a good lunch crowd. A lot of people said they came out to support Nippers. Others came out to turn Tipton's motorcycle, which remains into the parking lot, into a makeshift memorial.