TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A recent high school graduate who took the wrong bus home from work on Thursday night has become the third victim of a killer who is targeting Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood.
Interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said officers were patrolling Seminole Heights around 8 p.m on Thursday when they heard gunshots. Minutes later, officers found the body of Anthony Naiboa, 20.
“He was in the prime of his life and was taken instantly,” said Chief Dugan during a news conference on Friday morning.
In a horrible occurance, Naiboa’s body was found on the sidewalk near the home where the killer’s first victim, Benjamin Mitchell, 22, lived on North 15th Street.
Dugan said he was frustrated that officers did not catch the killer on Thursday night despite deploying a helicopter, SWAT team and K9s.
“I was convinced we were going to catch this person,” he said. “Our officers heard the gunshots. We have a heavy presence and this person was able to sneak away.”
Naiboa is autistic and had taken a city bus home from work. His parents called police when their son did not return home from work on Thursday night. Sadly, they learned he was a murder victim.
“The hardest part of police work is when you deal with the victim’s families,” said Dugan in an empathetic manner.
Police say the three murder victims’ bodies were found in the last ten days, all within one mile of each other.
“We believe it’s the same person,” said Dugan, who added that investigators do not know what is motivating the murders.
The first murder was discovered on Monday, Oct. 9. Benjamin Mitchell, 22, was shot and killed at a bus stop at 15th Street and East Frierson Avenue.
The second murder happened days later. The body of Monica Hoffa was discovered on Oct. 13 a few blocks away in a vacant lot on East New Orleans Avenue.
Detectives have not discovered any connection between the victims. They do not yet have any leads.
Chief Dugan urged people to watch a video released earlier this week to see if they recognize the person recorded by surveillance cameras.
“Do not assume it’s a white, black, or male,” he said about the person in the video.
Crime Stoppers and the ATF are offering an $18,000 reward in the cases. ATF and ClearChannel are preparing three digital billboards that call attention to the homicides.
Chief Dugan warned Seminole Heights residents that they should not go anywhere alone and to pay attention to their surroundings.
“We’re not going to be held hostage by whoever’s doing this,” said Chief Dugan. “We need everyone to come out of their homes at night, turn on their porch lights and not tolerate this type of terrorism in the neighborhood. We have to get people outside.”
The killings have Seminole Heights residents on edge. Morgan Matthews said he is scared about what could happen next.
“I don’t really like to go outside anymore,” Matthews said. “Versus how it was back in the day and now. People don’t care. A lot of people just don’t care.”