TAMPA — Humberto Delgado may have been mentally ill when he was arrested in the fatal shooting of a Tampa police officer, but he is stable enough now to invoke his constitutional rights.
As the 34-year-old kept quiet Friday, locked in the Orient Road Jail without bail, homicide detectives gathered the scraps he left in his tracks and looked for people who may have seen him in the days before the murder of the highly decorated Cpl. Mike Roberts.
In a news conference, Maj. George McNamara made an appeal to anyone who can help detectives figure out how Delgado's path led him to Roberts. Delgado was seen sleeping in a Pinellas County park three days before the killing. How did the man — with no car and a reported limp — get to Tampa? Did he stay with anyone? Who saw him this week, and what did they see?
Police executed a search warrant on a storage unit Delgado rented near his uncle's Oldsmar home. Among some clothing and other personal items, they found a .22 caliber rifle — the fifth firearm found in Delgado's possession.
McNamara did not know where he bought it. Detectives also don't know yet whether Delgado had drugs in his system, he said.
Police are sifting through volumes of information, holding meetings several times a day to evaluate leads, McNamara said. They're working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI and the Secret Service.
"There will be no stones left unturned," McNamara said. "All the information they gathered will be presented to prosecutors — information that will lead to the harshest sentence allowed by law."
Police say Delgado shot Roberts once in the upper body after the corporal spotted him pushing a shopping cart along Nebraska Avenue in the Sulphur Springs neighborhood about 10 p.m. Wednesday. Police say Delgado had four guns on him. He also pointed a high-powered rifle at another officer.
Such charges disturb Virgin Islands police Commissioner Novelle E. Francis, Delgado's former boss. Delgado was a police officer between 1996 and 2000. Francis said Delgado had job performance and behavioral issues while on the force.
The department was about to terminate him when he resigned, Francis said in a statement. He said Delgado seemed to have serious emotional problems.
"It's a sad day," Francis said, "and I can't tell you how much it hurts to know that a person who once wore our badge is now charged with killing a fellow law enforcement officer. Our condolences go out to both families who now have to deal with this unspeakable tragedy."
As homicide detectives worked Thursday night, Cpl. Roberts' squad took the night off to have dinner with the slain officer's family. To fill their beats, undercover officers donned uniforms and even Roberts' major and captain volunteered to patrol the streets to give his closest colleagues time to grieve together.
Delgado appeared in court for the first time Friday morning, seen on closed-circuit TV with detectives holding each arm, his hands cuffed in front of him, head down. He appeared disheveled and said nothing during the brief hearing.
Delgado was denied bail. He is charged with first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and three counts of carrying a concealed firearm.
Judge Walter Heinrich told Delgado that prosecutors will determine whether they will seek the death penalty and said a special public defender with an expertise in these types of cases would visit Delgado within the next week or two.
Later, Assistant Chief Jane Castor sat with Roberts' widow, Cynthia, to discuss upcoming issues. Mrs. Roberts' main concern was the investigation. She wanted homicide detectives to know she appreciated their work.
"I wish they didn't have to do it," the widow told the assistant chief.
Castor replied, "I think that speaks for all of us, as well."
Times researcher John Martin and staff writer Kim Wilmath contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3354.