Sunday, June 24, 2018
Public safety

New video shows person running seconds after Seminole Heights shooting

TAMPA — Stunning new video from the night of Benjamin Mitchell’s murder shows a person in a hooded top running away from the Southeast Seminole Heights area within seconds of the shooting.

The clothing leads Tampa police to believe it’s the pedestrian whose image has already been widely circulated, leading them to label this man or woman a "person of interest" in the investigation of three homicides.

Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan played the video at an afternoon news conference. He asked the public to carefully scrutinize the images, the person’s clothing and mannerisms, and to notify police if they think they know the person’s identity.

"It appears that they are walking toward the area where Benjamin Mitchell was and then they are running from the scene," Dugan said. "If that were me in that video, I have to believe that my neighbors would be able to identify me."

Officers stitched together surveillance video from multiple cameras in the neighborhood, he said. The edited video shows the person walking and flipping a cell phone in his or her right hand. Moments later, a second video shows the same person running in the opposite direction.

One time-stamped video indicates the person walked by a home and then, about seven minutes later, ran by in the opposite direction.

"I’ve come up with four reasons why this person is running," Dugan said. "One, they may be late for dinner. Two, they’re out exercising. Three, they heard gunshots. And number four, they just murdered Benjamin Mitchell."

SEMINOLE HEIGHTS HOMICIDES: "Someone is terrorizing" neighborhood after third slaying in 11 days

Mitchell was the first of three people killed in a series of shootings that occurred within 10 days and a few blocks of each other. Police have said they believe the killings are related.

Mitchell, 22, died Oct. 9.

Monica Hoffa, 32, was killed two days later.

Anthony Naiboa died Oct. 19, just 200 yards from the scene of Mitchell’s murder.

Police have been heavily patrolling the neighborhood since the killings began. They were there when Naiboa was shot, and they heard the gunfire, but they arrived too late to find a shooter.

Speculation that the killings are the work of a serial killer has drawn international attention, though police have refrained from using that label.

Dugan said police believe the person has ties to the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood.

They have been sifting through "hours upon hours" of video, he said. Enhancing the video — zooming in on the pedestrian — lowers the resolution, leaving investigators uncertain about the race or gender of the person.

"We need people to tell us who this is," Dugan said.

He repeatedly said the subject of the video is a "person of interest" but not necessarily a suspect and cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

"But why after this long — and we’ve had this video out there for so long — why have they not come forward?"

The chief warned against crime experts offering general patterns or speculation about who the killer might be.

He implored Seminole Heights residents to look closely at the person’s clothing and mannerisms and consider if they know anyone it could be. Dugan thought the way the person easily flipped their phone might be an identifying habit.

The chief added that a reward for information on the homicides has increased to $35,000.

As of Thursday afternoon, police had received about 350 tips in the case, increasingly about the video, agency spokesman Stephen Hegarty said.

Anyone with information regarding the person’s identity can call Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay at 1 (800) 873-TIPS (8477).

Staff writer Howard Altman contributed to this report.

Live coverage:

Want more? View the full stream

Comments
Authorities find

Authorities find "inmate" who walked away from Bilirakis event

The 23-year-old man who authorities said walked away from a New Port Richey political event while under supervision of a treatment center on Saturday has been located.The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office described Nicholas Moore, 23, as both an "inmate"...
Updated: 10 hours ago
FHP: Wrong-way driver hit 100 miles per hour before sideswiping car

FHP: Wrong-way driver hit 100 miles per hour before sideswiping car

A Clearwater man who authorities said sideswiped a car while driving more than 100 miles per hour the wrong way on U.S. 41 was arrested Friday. Wendel Jamel James, 35, is charged with DUI with property damage, reckless driving and leaving the scene ...
Published: 06/23/18
Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

TAMPA — Police want to know who shot 14-year-old De’Nico Thomas after a night of playing video games.Thomas was at a friend’s home Wednesday night and walking home when Tampa police said he was shot, resulting in life-threatening injuries.As he faces...
Published: 06/22/18
Clearwater police search for ‘Bic Bandit’ accused of stealing lighters

Clearwater police search for ‘Bic Bandit’ accused of stealing lighters

CLEARWATER — Police detectives are searching for a man coined the "Bic Bandit" based on reports that he’s stolen dozens of lighters from the same 7-Eleven.According to Clearwater police, the man has swiped the lighters four times in the last month, t...
Published: 06/22/18
FHP: One dead, three seriously injured in head-on Pasco crash

FHP: One dead, three seriously injured in head-on Pasco crash

DADE CITY — A Dade City man was killed and three others were seriously injured after a pickup truck and motorcycle crashed head-on Friday morning, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Floyd Williamson, 72, of Lakeland, was driving northbound on U....
Published: 06/22/18
Body of missing Hernando park ranger found in Georgia; boyfriend being questioned

Body of missing Hernando park ranger found in Georgia; boyfriend being questioned

Georgia detectives on Friday recovered the body of Mitzi Marie Babb, a 43-year-old Hernando park ranger who had been missing since Tuesday.Her boyfriend, arrested Thursday on unrelated charges, has been called a person of interest in her disappearanc...
Published: 06/22/18
A Pasco driver was annoyed another driver was texting. So he pointed a firearm at her.

A Pasco driver was annoyed another driver was texting. So he pointed a firearm at her.

PORT RICHEY — A 41-year-old Uber driver was arrested Friday after police said he pointed a firearm at another driver because he was annoyed that she was texting and driving.Philip Macchio was driving near State Road 52 and U.S. 19 around 12:30 a.m. F...
Published: 06/22/18
Deputies: Cheerleading coach sent explicit images to 16-year-old

Deputies: Cheerleading coach sent explicit images to 16-year-old

A 28-year-old cheerleading coach faces charges for engaging in "inappropriate behavior" with a 16-year-old girl, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Victor Martin Valenty faces 10 counts of traveling to meet a minor, distributing ob...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Suspect arrested in rapper XXXTentacion’s shooting death

Suspect arrested in rapper XXXTentacion’s shooting death

FORT LAUDERDALE — Authorities in Florida have arrested a suspect in the killing of rising rap star XXXTentacion, who was fatally shot in his luxury BMW electric car as he left an upscale motorcycle dealership. Dedrick Devonshay Williams, 22, o...
Published: 06/21/18
St. Pete police: Three lieutenants lied about their work hours

St. Pete police: Three lieutenants lied about their work hours

ST. PETERSBURG — Three lieutenants responsible for supervising the police officers who patrol the city were found to have been faking their work hours instead of showing up for duty on time.In some cases, the watch commanders submitted time sheets st...
Published: 06/21/18