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Police arrest Florida man accused of shooting at homeless family sleeping in car

Christopher Stamat Jr., 21, allegedly fired more than a dozen shots at a homeless family of five sleeping in their car, injuring a pregnant woman.
Crime scene investigators place evidence markers around a vehicle after a man fired shots at a sleeping family Wednesday in Tampa, Fla. 
Crime scene investigators place evidence markers around a vehicle after a man fired shots at a sleeping family Wednesday in Tampa, Fla. Tampa Police Department

Police arrested a Florida man accused of shooting a family sleeping in their car last week, injuring a pregnant woman, the Tampa Police Department announced Saturday.

Police arrested Christopher Stamat Jr., 21, Saturday in connection with the shooting, which took place around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday. Stamat allegedly shot the mother in the head, leaving her with non-life-threatening injuries, according to police.

Stamat faces six felony charges for the attack, including four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of second-degree attempted murder and one count of shooting into a vehicle, police said, adding that he was being held without bond.

Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor said in a news conference on Sunday morning that police arrested Stamat earlier in the day on Saturday for felony marijuana possession. After making bond for that arrest, Stamat was released, O’Connor said. Police arrested him again later that afternoon after making the case for the shooting charge, O’Connor said.

“Our community as a whole can sleep easier tonight knowing the suspect linked to this monstrous, random act of violence is no longer free to prey on innocent people,” O’Connor said in a statement following the arrest.

The shooting reportedly occurred in a parking lot across from the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex in the Old West Tampa neighborhood.

The father, who police said is in his 30s, saw another car pull up and heard gunshots, police said, adding that he yelled for his wife, who is in her 20s, and their three children to get down to avoid the bullets.

The suspect allegedly fired more than a dozen shots before fleeing.

The woman, who is pregnant, was struck in the head and transported to a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

The children — a 9-year-old girl, a 4-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl — were uninjured in the shooting, according to police.

In the news conference Sunday, O’Connor said that the mother is “still in the hospital recovering from her injuries” and that the children are staying with family members in Florida.

The family has been living in a rental car after recently moving back to Tampa after several months of living out of state, police said.

Police bought the children breakfast following the attack and temporarily put the family up in a hotel, police added.

Police identified Stamat by tracing his 2012 BMW through surveillance footage from the scene, authorities said, adding that they found his car the day after the shooting in the garage of his girlfriend's home, about 3 miles from the scene of the shooting.

After obtaining search warrants for Stamat's car and home, police said they found an empty gun box for a 9mm handgun and empty shell casings matching those found at the scene of the crime, authorities said.

O'Connor said at the news conference the handgun police found was not the one Stamat allegedly used in the crime.

O'Connor added that the door to the bedroom in Stamat's home in which the shell casings were found requires his fingerprint identification to open the door, "so there's no doubt that these shell casings belong to him," she said.

Police said Stamat admitted he was the only person who has used his car recently and that he was driving in the area of the crime the morning of the shooting.

Stamat did not give police a motive for the shooting, authorities said, adding that he thought he was being stalked and followed, which his girlfriend also confirmed to police was something he believed.

Police said there is no indication of any connection between Stamat and the victims.

O'Connor said at the news conference that the family had clothing covering the windows of their car and a visor blocking the view from the windshield, making it unclear whether the perpetrator could see who they were.