Tampa police search for potential serial killer
Authorities in Florida warned members of the community that they “are either a suspect or a potential victim” following a string of unsolved murders over the course of the last several days.
“Everyone at this point is a suspect,” Interim Police Chief Brian Dugan told a crowd of about 400 people, who turned out at Edison Elementary School Monday evening to learn more about the series of killings.
Detectives in Tampa were still searching Tuesday for the person behind three murders in a Seminole Heights neighborhood, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The victims do not have an apparent link to each other aside from the fact that they were all fatally shot within a mile of each in the last several days.
RELATED: Tampa police hunt killer after similar murders
“Everyone wants to know, ‘Is there a serial killer,’” Dugan said. “That’s the big question I get. I have purposely avoided that because there is stereotyping associated with serial killers.”
He continued on to say the department was still investigating and hoped the attention the case was receiving would help bring about additional answers.
“We don’t know who this person is,” he said. “That’s the reality. We know we have three people murdered in a half mile of of each other in 10 days. They were all walking alone. Probably minding their own business. Lord knows whoever is doing this.”
The first victim, Benjamin Mitchell, was shot and killed on Oct. 9 around 9 p.m. The 22-year-old was alone waiting at a bus stop, not far from his home, according to the Times.
Two days later, Monica Hoffa, 32, was fatally shot only ten blocks away. And Anthony Naiboa on Oct. 19 became the third victim. The 20-year-old had autism and mistakenly took the wrong bus home. He was shot just 100 yards away from where the frist victim was found.
Dugan said officers heard the gunfire while they were canvassing the area and found Naiboa — but they were too late.
RELATED: Serial killers who were never caught
“We think they’re related. Through the proximity and the time frame they are related,” Dugan told reporters during a Friday press conference. “There is no doubt in our minds about that.”
Authorities so far have provided little information on a potential suspect. They recently released a grainy surveillance video that appeared to show a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt walking not far from where the slayings occurred.
Police in Tampa are working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. They’ve also consulted the FBI and have reached out to St. Petersburg Police Department for help in the case.