(TAMPA BAY, FL.) — Authorities are investigating another gunshot killing in a beleaguered Tampa, Florida, neighborhood, police said Tuesday, adding that it may be related to October’s unsolved slayings in the same area.
Police early Tuesday morning confirmed reports of gunfire and found a gunshot victim in the Seminole Heights neighborhood where three people were shot to death in a span of 11 days last month.
“We are treating it as although it is related until we rule otherwise,” interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan told reporters Tuesday morning.
Authorities have identified the victim as Ronald Felton, 60, who was supposed to “meet up with someone” when he was apparently targeted and slain in cold blood, Dugan said.
“Someone came up from behind and shot him,” he said. “And he was left in the street.”
The suspect in this case has been identified as an African-American man wearing a baseball cap and described as having a “thin build” and dressed in all black, authorities said.
“We do have a witness that we have been discussing [what happened],” Dugan said. “When I spoke to her she said, ‘If our officer had been five seconds earlier, he would’ve been able to stop it.’”
Police arrived “within seconds” of the 911 calls that were placed before 5 a.m., Dugan said.
The homicide follows a string of three unsolved killings within blocks of each other days before Halloween and near a bus-line route where two of the victims had been commuting. Police say they believe those three killings were committed by the same person.
The first victim was 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell, who attended George S. Middleton High School. He was shot and killed steps from his home while waiting for a bus at North 15th Street at Frierson Avenue Oct. 9.
Two days later, 32-year-old Monica Hoffa, who police say died October 11, was found slain a half-mile from Mitchell, officials confirmed.
Then on Oct. 19, Anthony Naiboa, a 20-year-old man with autism, was killed in the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood while taking the wrong bus home from work.
The young man, who was waiting at a bus stop located at North 15th Street at Frierson Avenue, died steps away from his home
All three earlier killings remain unsolved.
Early on, police released pixelated photos of a slender individual wearing pants and a hooded windbreaker, initially walking near one of the crime scenes and then picking up the pace to a sprint.
“We believe this is the same person we saw walking just moments earlier,” Dugan, the police chief, said during a news conference last month, adding the person of interest likely has ties to the neighborhood.
“He is running in the other direction … We believe this is the same person, once again, running away from the scene of the shooting.”
In subsequently released surveillance video recordings that were released by police, the same individual is seen flipping and repeatedly staring at a cellphone with the right hand.
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