Artist Killed During CORROSION OF CONFORMITY Concert In Tampa

Valerie Kalfrin of Tampa Bay Online has issued the following report:

The Masquerade in Ybor City has beckoned Thomas "Tommy" Laskas to hang out and hear a band since he was a teenager.

Years ago, when he was about 15, he borrowed a friend's car to drive to the club at 15th Street and Seventh Avenue for a FUGAZI concert.

For some reason, he never made it to the show.

Laskas, 29, and his wife, Wendy (photo), 30, headed to the Masquerade again Thursday for music and camaraderie with friends.

This time, Laskas lost his life.

About 11:30 p.m., during a concert by the band CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, Thomas Laskas tried to break up a fight between two women.

His friend, Dallas Ashe, a club bartender, also tried to intervene. He got between the women and thought another man was trying to do the same.

"But then he started punching people," Ashe said. "I thought he was punching and then after he punched at me, I jumped back and realized he had a knife. That's when I tried to shout, 'He has a knife' and get everybody away."

Tampa police described the knife-wielding man as white with a shaved head and a reddish-brown mustache and goatee. He is about 30 years old, roughly 150 pounds and about 5 feet 8 inches tall, police said.

He stabbed Laskas several times in the upper body with a type of folding pocketknife, police said. He then stabbed Wendy Laskas, who tried to pull her husband free. Another friend of the couple, Nicholas Stegall, 21, also was stabbed, police said.

As the crowd descended into chaos, the man with the knife swung around, slashing through Ashe's shirt, police said.

In the confusion, the man disappeared.

Thomas Laskas died of his injuries at Tampa General Hospital. His wife remained there Friday in fair condition.

Stegall was treated there and later released; Ashe was treated by paramedics for minor wounds.

Police are asking anyone with information about the knife-wielding man to call (813) 231-6130.

Luke Lirot, the club's attorney, said about 250 people, including employees, were at the club Thursday. He did not know what security measures were in place but said the club runs "a tight operation," with usually a minimum of eight security people on duty.

The club's owners plan to review what happened, Lirot said, but he didn't anticipate increased security measures. "They do everything they can, and they're trained well," Lirot said.

Police spokesman Joe Durkin said to his knowledge, the club's security did not pat down concertgoers or use metal detectors.

Laskas, his wife and Stegall worked together at Mean Machine Tattoo Co. at 3415 S. Dale Mabry Highway. The business was closed Friday. A handwritten note taped to the door explained there was a "loss in the family."

Lirot said he heard the man with the knife was handing out business cards advertising a tattoo parlor.

Durkin could not confirm that detail, saying he could not discuss any leads.

Meanwhile, friends reeled in shock. Nathan Snyder of St. Petersburg was working Thursday night at another Ybor City club when he heard about the stabbing. "I had no idea it was [Laskas]," he said. "Everybody who knows him absolutely loves him."

Ashe met the couple when Wendy Laskas, who has a daughter, tended bar at New World Brewery. The couple have been married about four years and lived in Seminole Heights.

"We went bowling. We watched the Buccaneers win the Super Bowl," Ashe said, describing Thomas Laskas as "the happiest and nicest guy around."

Laskas was always drawing, especially Celtic designs. Friends said his thick beard and tattoos surrounded a generous heart and witty personality. He liked to engage people in conversations about religion and politics and couldn't resist a good joke.

The inked forearms and clasped hands of Laskas and his wife were part of a Valentine's Day feature in The Tampa Tribune this year.

"Don't hide anything. Become completely open," Thomas Laskas said in the article. "Make sure you're friends beforehand. We talk to each other all the time."

His close-knit family includes a mother and uncle in the Tampa area and a sister in Lutz. "He was just the kind of cat you didn't have a disagreement with," said his former brother-in-law Mike Klar. "He was one of the good ones."

Wachovia Bank branches will accept donations for a memorial fund being established for Wendy Laskas and her daughter.

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