TAMPA, Fla. – A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the recent Seminole Heights killings.
The reward, offered by Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay and ATF, comes following the identification of a third victim.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-873-TIPS.
The latest victim was identified Anthony Naiboa, 20. A recent high school graduate who had autism, investigators say Naiboa had accidentally taken the wrong bus home and ended up in the Seminole Heights neighborhood where he was shot to death around 8;00 p.m. Thursday night.
Back on October 10, Benjamin Mitchell, 22, was killed while waiting at a bus stop near North 15th Street and East Frierson Avenue. Monica Hoffa, 32, was shot and killed near the intersection of East New Orleans Avenue and North 10th Street on October 5. Her body was found the next day.
“I go from frustration to anger,” said Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan.
Dugan says it’s just too coincidental to be anything but connected. Thee murder victims in just 10 days, all within a few square blocks of each other.
“When you look at the timeframe, the proximity, that there is no apparent motive, that they are alone, the victims are a lot of the time, it's clear to me that they're all linked,” he said.
Joy Dupree lives around the corner from two of the shootings. She could hear the shots. Three the first time, she said, and one gunshot Thursday night.
“I mean, it's pretty scary. And it being so close is what makes it even scarier. So, you just stay in the house,” said Dupree.
On October 9th, police found the body of Benjamin Mitchell, 22, at a bus stop at 15th Street and East Frierson Ave,
On October 13th they found the body of Monica Hoffa in a field near the 1000 Block of East New Orleans Ave – only a few blocks away. They believe Hoffa had been shot two days earlier.
As a result of the first two murders, Tampa police had already saturated the neighborhood. They got to the scene of the latest shooting in minutes. They brought in the dogs. Called in the SWAT team. But the suspect has already gotten away.
“We instantaneously had a perimeter set up last night. I was convinced that we were going to catch this person,” said Chief Dugan.
Dugan described the shooter as an animal and a terrorist, but stopped short of using the words ‘serial killer’.
“We are still sifting through evidence,” he said. “We can call it what we want. If that brings attention to this, that's fine.”
The shootings have frightened people living and working in the area.
Just a few blocks away, at a stretch of trendy stores and restaurants along Nebraska Avenue, there is concern customers could stay away.
“People will be scared to come in,” said Marez George, who works at a local cafe. “Especially, I'm not talking about just this restaurant, the area itself. Like me, I'm scared to come around this area now,” she said.
Investigators are now checking local houses and businesses looking for security cameras that might have captured images around the time of the shootings.
The police already have surveillance video of a person of interest seen wearing a hoodie the night of the first murder.
“We need somebody to tell us who that person is, or we need that person to come forward so we can eliminate them as a suspect,” said Chief Dugan. “That's where it starts, with that video right there.”
Chief Dugan says anyone traveling alone in the area of the murders will be considered one of two things for now. Either a possible victim, or a possible suspect.
The Chief’s advice to people in the area is to stay outside, but not alone. Be alert so they can catch this person.
“We're not going to be held hostage by whoever is doing this. We need everyone to come out of their homes at night,” said Chief Dugan. “Turn on their porch lights. And, just not tolerate this type of terrorism in the neighborhood.”
We wanted to see how the murders compare to overall crime numbers in the area.
Last year, there was one murder in Seminole Heights and 14 shootings. From January through September of this year, there were no murders and five shootings.
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