Florida authorities are investigating the possibility of a serial killer in a Tampa, neighborhood after three shooting deaths within the last two weeks prompted the community into high alert.
According to PEOPLE, the three victims who were either Black or Latino, were fatally shot over the course of 11 days in a Seminole Heights neighborhood. Though the victims had no familiarity with one another, all their deaths occurred within half a mile. Authorities believe one assailant shot all of the victims, but currently have no suspect or motive, USA Today reports.
“Through the proximity and the time frame, they are related,” Tampa interim Police Chief Brian Dugan said during a Friday press conference. “There is no doubt in our minds about that.”
The first victim, 22-year old Benjamin Mitchell, was struck on October 9 near a bus stop by his home. Police believe Mitchell was alone at the time of the shooting. On October 11 Monica Caridad Hoffa, 32, was shot and killed 10 blocks from Mitchell. Her body was discovered in an empty grassy plot owned by the city of Tampa.
The last victim, 20 year-old Anthony Taino Naiboa, was fatally shot on October 19, just 100 yards from Mitchell. According to authorities, Naiboa suffered from autism and mistakenly took the wrong bus home from his job. They killed him just for nothing,” Naiboa’s father Anthony said during a Sunday vigil for his son. “Like he’s not a human, like he’s nothing.”
Community members spoke with USA Today to express the constant state of anguish and fear of a killer on the loose. “We don’t open the door or nothing. A lot of people are scared,” Maria Maldonado, who resides near where two of the shootings to place, said to the outlet. “I’m scared for my son, for the neighborhood, she continued.
City officials and authorities have put in safety guards until the shooter is found. Police are escorting children to school and have warned community members not to walk alone at night. Several law enforcement groups such as the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are helping with the investigation, USA today reports.
“There aren’t a lot of facts, or evidence, yet,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in an interview with the outlet. “We’re going to find this guy and we’re not leaving this neighborhood till we do.”
The recent shooting spree in Florida is eerily similar to a 2016 case in Phoenix, Arizona, where several victims of color were gunned down in a small Maryvale neighborhood.