Police in Tampa, Florida have released a video of a hooded person of interest in the three murders that have terrorized a quiet neighborhood, in a desperate plea for information about the suspected serial murders.
A $25,000 reward is offered to the public for information about the three sidewalk shootings in Seminole Heights, after desperate investigators called in FBI profilers for assistance in the case.
Two men and one woman have been gunned down in the neighborhood in little more than a week, with police saying they have no personal connections and appear to be randomly targeted.
Cops conducting saturation patrols in the area even heard the gunshots that killed the latest victim, 20-year-old Anthony Naiboa, but the killer eluded them.
The eerie surveillance video from the first shooting shows a tall, thin person walking with a distinctive loping gait, but police have cautioned that they aren’t sure from the footage of the individual’s race, or even whether it is a man or a woman.
Profilers have stepped in to fill the gap, offering their expert theories: the killer is likely male, perhaps in his 20s, possibly an ethnic minority. The random slayings may be motivated by anger and the thrill of outwitting investigators.
The fatal sidewalk shootings all took place within blocks of each other in Seminole Heights
The killer probably has a ‘deep and personal relationship with the area,’ writes Enzo Yaksic, who runs the Serial Homicide Expertise and Information Sharing Collaborative, in a profile shared with the Tampa Bay Times.
The killer appears to blitz strangers with a gun, and escapes quickly on foot or bicycle, suggesting a reasonably fit individual age 21 to 35.
Predicting the race of a suspect is tricky. The victims have included several races, and Yaksic believes that given the area’s demographics the killer is likely an ethnic minority.
As the neighborhood has been gentrifying, Yaksic suspects that class tensions may play a role in the killer’s psychology.
‘The disparity between the offender’s perceived lower status may be driving his motivations to victimize those from other statuses,’ Yaksic wrote.
Since the murders took place late in the day or at night, the ‘timing could indicate that the offender is employed during the daylight hours in some menial capacity based on his potential age range.’
Cops blanketed the area after the initial slayings, but it was not enough to prevent the sidewalk murder of the third victim. Officers nearby heard the shots ring out
The site of the third shooting was just a block from where the first victim was slain – and police said it was right outside the first victim’s home
Experts warn that profiling is not the magical art depicted in shows like ‘Criminal Minds’ – at best, profilers supplement the traditional investigative work of police on the ground.
Though police have been grudging to publicly call these murders the work of a serial killer, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said on Friday: ‘We can call it what we want… if that brings attention to it, that’s fine.’
The first victim, 22-year-old Benjamin Edward Mitchell, was shot on October 9 near a bus stop a block away from the most recent shooting, and died from his injuries at a hospital. Cops said he had no criminal record.
Days later, Monica Caridad Hoffa, 32, was found dead on October 13, although police believe she was killed two days earlier. Her body was found in a vacant lot by a city worker.
Naiboa, the third victim, was not even supposed to be in the neighborhood when he was shot on the night of October 19.
Cops said that Anthony Naiboa, the third victim, had mistakenly gotten on the wrong bus leaving work and was not even supposed to be in the neighborhood when he was killed
He had autism, and police say he took the wrong bus home from work. Realizing his mistake, he got off in Seminole Heights and was walking to a different stop when he was gunned down.
Police on saturation patrols in the area rushed over and found him dead on the scene.
The three shootings took place within a few thousand feet of each other in the residential neighborhood.
All three victims were bus riders and all three were shot at or near bus stops. Mitchell and Naiboa both attended Middleton High School.
Authorities have said repeatedly that the three victims were not criminals and that there is no personal connection between them.
‘You can imagine the frustration of these officers to hear gunshots and not be able to find this person,’ Dugan said at the conference.
‘He was in the prime of his life and was taken instantly.’
‘This is, you know, very frustrating,’ Dugan said. ‘I go from frustration to anger on these unsolved homicides. And now, we have someone who is terrorizing the neighborhood. It’s just difficult to see this happen.’
Police have urged residents in the area to keep their exterior lights on and maintain a public presence on the streets – though the department warns against walking alone at night.
‘Do cookouts, walk your dog,’ said Dugan. ‘We’re not going to be held hostage by whoever’s doing this.’
The chief also had a message for the killer: ‘Enough is enough.’
‘I don’t know what your motive is,’ he said. ‘I don’t know what your problem is. There’s been enough carnage. You have severely affected some families.’
Anyone with information about the murders is urged to contact Tampa Crime Stoppers at 800-873-TIPS.