Police say that a killer is "terrorizing" the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa after three people were shot and killed in 11 days.
All three victims were killed at locations within roughly a half mile (approximately 10 blocks) of each other in the southeast Seminole Heights area.
The first victim, Benjamin Mitchell, was killed on October 9 only a few hundred feet from where the third victim, Anthony Taino Naiboa, was killed on October 19. Mitchell was murdered roughly one block north of where Naiboa was shot dead. The second victim, Monica Caridad Hoffa, was shot and killed on October 11, under a half a mile away from the other two murders.
In addition to the relatively close time frame and proximity of the shootings, the nature of the three shootings has led detectives to believe that the three cases are related.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, really to tell you the truth, there’s no rhyme or reason,” Sgt. Robert Fannin with the Tampa Police Department said.
Detectives believe that the killings were random and have not discovered any connection between the three victims. In each of the shootings, it appears the victim was alone and was not robbed. Police say that the killer is finding people who are vulnerable since all three victims were alone at the time of the murders.
There is no apparent motive behind the killings, according to Interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan.
"We still have no leads, we have no motives," Chief Dugan said during a press conference on Friday. "It's clear to me that they're all linked."
When asked whether or not police believed it might be a serial killer, Chief Dugan replied: “We can call it what we want. If that brings attention to this… That’s fine.”
- Killed on October 9
Mitchell was the first Seminole Heights murder victim. Officers say that on Monday, October 9 around 9 p.m., Mitchell was shot while waiting at a bus stop on N. 15th Street just south of E. Frierson Avenue. When officers arrived they found Mitchell lying by the bus stop. He was transported to the hospital where he passed away.
Police say that it appears he was alone at the time of the shooting. Prior to the second and third shooting, police said that Mitchell had no criminal background and that he was a "good person from a good family," leaving them without a clear motive.
- Killed on October 11
Hoffa was the second Seminole Heights murder victim. Police say that her body was found on Friday, October 13 near the 1000 block of E. New Orleans Avenue. They believe that the shooting may have occurred late Wednesday.
Her body was found Friday morning by a City of Tampa employee. Tampa Police officers were notified at approximately 9:30 a.m. on Friday.
After Hoffa's body was discovered, Tampa Police held a press conference stating that they believed the two shootings were connected due to the relatively close time frame, proximity of the shootings, and the nature of the two shootings.
- Killed on October 19
Naiboa was the latest victim in the Seminole Heights murders. He was a recent high school graduate with autism who was shot and killed on Thursday, October 19 while on his way home from work.
Officers were patrolling the area of Northeast Seminole Heights around 8 p.m. when they heard a possible gunshot. A short time later, they found Anthony Taino Naiboa, 20, shot dead on the sidewalk. Naiboa was found on N. 15th Street between E Conover Street and E Wilder Avenue.
Officers determined that Naiboa had taken the wrong city bus on his way home from work and believe he was going to another bus stop but did not make it.
Detectives have surveillance video of a person who was walking down a street near where the first victim, Benjamin Mitchell was murdered at the approximate time of the shooting. Detectives want to talk with the individual in the video because they believe he or she may have seen or heard something.
Detectives sent alerts to residents in the area via Alert Tampa notifying them of the homicides and seeking surveillance video. Detectives also have gone through the neighborhood, talking with residents, collecting surveillance video, and showing residents the video of the man who was walking in the area when the first murder occurred.
If any residents or businesses have surveillance video that might assist detectives, they are asked to call Tampa Police at 813-231-6130.
Reward for information that leads to arrest of Seminole Heights Killer
Crime Stoppers and ATF have teamed up to offer an $25,000 reward in the cases. Anyone with any information regarding this case and who wants to be eligible for a cash reward is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477), report anonymously online at www.crimestopperstb.com.
— ATF HQ (@ATFHQ) October 21, 2017
Staying safe in Seminole Heights
Police also are urging residents in the Seminole Heights area to be vigilant and follow some basic safety tips.
'You're either a suspect or a potential victim'
Police are urging resident to not walk alone at night.
"We have someone terrorizing the neighborhood... Don't walk alone," Chief Dugan said. "Be aware of your surroundings."
If you must be out walking after dark, arrange to have a friend join you.
"If you're walking alone, you're either a suspect or a potential victim," Chief Dugan warned.
Turn on your porch lights
Chief Dugan is asking all residents in the area to turn their porch lights on every night to help keep the neighborhoods safer. He says anyone who does not have a porch light can contact TPD and they will provide one for you. Tampa Police can provide light bulbs if necessary.
Mary Stringini is a reporter for ABC Action News. Follow her on Twitter @MaryWFTS.