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Tampa Mayor Vows Police Will Catch Killer After 3 Murders in 2 Weeks

by Phil Helsel /
A peaceful march that began on east New Orleans Avenue was held during a candlelight vigil for the three victims who were killed in the recent shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa on Oct. 22, 2017. The deaths, which took place in the same neighborhood over the past 10 days, prompted Tampa police to warn residents in the Seminole Heights neighborhood not to walk alone at night.Octavio Jones / The Tampa Bay Times via AP

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Tampa’s mayor addressed police on Wednesday in the wake of three murders apparently committed at random and vowed the killer would be caught, as the interim police chief said he has been promised state resources in the investigation.

"This guy is not going to win," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at a police roll call in the community of Seminole Heights near where the deadly shootings occurred He’s not taking over this neighborhood; he's not taking over these streets. You guys go hunt him down."

Buckhorn added, "We are going to hunt this son of a b---- down until we catch him."

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The first killing occurred on Oct. 9, when Benjamin Mitchell, 22, was shot while at a bus stop. On Oct. 13, the body of Monica Hoffa, 32, was found in a vacant lot, where police say she was fatally shot, and on Oct. 19 Anthony Naiboa, 20, was shot and killed while walking on a street, authorities have said.

Tampa's Interim Police Chief Brian Dugan said that Gov. Rick Scott has pledged the help of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state Highway Patrol. The FBI is also assisting local police.

"Our suspect is still out there,” Dugan told police officers at the roll call.

Police have released grainy surveillance video of a person of interest and Dugan said they are still looking for that person, but police have avoided using the term "serial killer."

"We don't have enough information for those type of labels," Dugan said.

Related: Grieving Dad Pleads for Information That Could Catch Killer

"When you have three murders within such close proximity and time frame, that’s why we have linked these together," he said. "And we have not used that label because we don’t want people to focus in and start being close minded and looking at one specific type of stereotype that people may have when you throw a label on something."

In addition to increased police patrols and knocking on doors, the city’s sanitation departments and utilities have been boarding up abandoned homes, trimming trees that block streetlights and replacing lights that are out, Buckhorn said.

Dugan on Wednesday urged people who may have video surveillance systems to contact police. Authorities have offered a reward of $25,000 for information that leads to an arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.

Related: Anxiety Grips Florida Neighborhood After 3 Recent Killings

"Anyone in this neighborhood that still has a home video surveillance system that we have not reached out to you, or we have not found, please call us," Dugan said. "You could provide valuable information."

"I think the issue is potentially somebody knows something, but they may not realize it," he said.

Dugan sought to reassure people ahead of Halloween. "I'm going to go out there, I'll be personally on patrol, and you know what — if somebody wants to walk with me they can walk with me. I'll walk with their family and get candy with them," Dugan told reporters. "I might even take some of their candy."

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