Residents of the quiet Tampa neighborhood of Seminole Heights have been shaken to the core after three people were shot dead in less than a one-mile radius over the course of a three-week period. While police are reluctant to label the shootings the work of a serial killer, they say there is reason to believe that the seemingly random slayings were all connected.
“I’m very cautious of that term because we don’t have enough information,” Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan told CBS News. “You know, we don’t know. It could be multiple people.” While police remain apprehensive about using the term “serial killer,” they have encouraged Seminole Heights residents to be on alert for any suspicious activity and to avoid walking alone at night.
On Sunday, October 22, 2017, a candlelight vigil was held for the three suspected victims of the killer. Benjamin Mitchell, 22, was the first police believe to have been gunned down while waiting for the bus by the unknown killer. Several days after the discovery of Mitchell’s body, the body of 32-year-old Monica Hoffa was found in a vacant lot. Finally, 20-year-old Anthony Naiboa, a recent high school graduate who had been diagnosed with autism, was shot to death on a sidewalk after he mistakenly got off the bus in Seminole Heights.
Residents say the reason for holding the vigil wasn’t only a show of solidarity for families of the gunman’s victims but to show the still unknown killer that they will not live in fear. “We’re not scared of these people. We won’t be afraid and you won’t get away with it,” Casimar Naiboa, Anthony Naiboa’s father, told the Naples Daily News.
Police say that while they believe the murders are connected, they are still scrambling to uncover a possible motive. One theory police say they suspect is the possibility that the murders were part of a gang initiation, but with few clues available anything is possible.
Surveillance cameras were able to capture a man in a hooded sweatshirt, who police suspect may be connected to the shootings. They have also offered a $25,000 reward for anyone who can provide information leading to the killer’s arrest and conviction. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Crimestoppers at 800-873-TIPS.