Mayor holds community forum to calm fears in Tampa neighborhood
Three shot dead in one Tampa community since Oct. 9 and police are still working to find their killer.
The area near 15th Street in Seminole Heights has become the focal point for a flurry of conversation of a possible serial killer.
Benjamin Edward Mitchell, 22, Monica Caridad Hoffa, 32, and Anthony Naiboa, 20, were all shot dead within a mile of each other and just days apart. Police believe their deaths are connected.
There are no motives and no connections between the victims, except that they all rode the city bus. Police continue to investigate their deaths, and have put out a call on social media for those with surveillance video of the area to contact detectives.
In recent days, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has appeared on several national television news networks, discussing what officials know about the killings.
Interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan also appeared on CNN on Tuesday morning and hasn’t shied away from using the term “serial killer” in connection with the investigation.
“We can call it what we want. If that brings attention to this. That’s fine,” he told the Associated Press.
Buckhorn tweeted Monday: “We won’t stop until this monster is found. This is personal for the men and women of (Tampa Police Department).”
Buckhorn also tweeted that 1,000 streetlights have been added in Seminole Heights.
Experts told the Tampa Bay Times that this killer differs from serial killers in that he uses a firearm.
Tensions are high, but residents are working to come together to regain a sense of security, Bay News 9 reported Monday.
A community forum held Monday night aimed to calm the fears of residents as well as inform them on the investigation - one that may not be over soon.
“This pains me to tell you that if you're out there walking alone that you're either a suspect or a potential victim,” Dugan said Monday.
Dugan said police are releasing as much information as possible so the community can be safe, but warned it could be a long-term investigation, according to Bay News 9.
Family members of the three victims also attended and addressed the crowd.
“It is families torn apart because of what this man did to us or whomever it is did to us,” one family member told the crowd tearfully, according to Bay News 9.
Police have stepped up patrols in the area and volunteer Guardian Angels are walking through the neighborhood, Bay News 9 reported.
Sunday, hundreds of community members gathered and marched the streets of Seminole Heights carrying candles.
The march was in part a vigil to honor those who have been killed, according to Bay News 9 and to take back their own streets.
“Let's show them that we're not afraid and that we own these streets,” Naiboa’s stepmother Maria Rodriguez told Bay News 9. “I want everybody to say it together, ‘We own these streets! We own this community!’”
Police released a dark, grainy video of a person wearing a hooded sweatshirt walking down the street near where the shootings occurred. The person in the video has been deemed “suspicious” after being in the area around the time of the first shooting.
Anyone with information is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 800-873-TIPS. Crime Stoppers is offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the case.