Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa is shaken as murders keep coming

“Something bad must have happened on the bridge," my husband says when he comes home from an early-morning trip to the gym.

I see it as I head to work, at the base of the bridge that connects some of Tampa's oldest neighborhoods to the shiny buildings of downtown: the flashing lights, the pack of police cars, the news trucks, all evidence of something very bad.

University of Tampa student robbed and killed, says the morning headline on tampabay.com, murdered apparently for little more than what he had in his pockets.

He turns out to be a sweet-faced 21-year-old named Ryan McCall who wanted to be a track coach. He regularly ran that same North Boulevard bridge that curves high over the Hillsborough River. He walked it one last time heading home in the early morning hours, when city streets turn more sinister, when police say a robber found him.

This is the saddest thing that could happen, you think.

The next morning, fresh headlines say a good cop was killed in the night, shot dead by someone he had been chasing on another city street 5 miles from where the student died. Even if you have the sort of job in which mayhem is routine, you start to think: What is going on around here?

Right now it's cold comfort to know that crime was actually down 18 percent the first six months of the year in Tampa, given the eight new murders since July.

Eight murders.

Do you add to your disbelief the horror of two small children also dead, brought to a Brandon hospital unconscious and "unresponsive" with high temperatures, a case still under investigation? How do you not?

With her usual dignity, the mayor of Tampa put out a statement about the police officer who was killed, Cpl. Mike Roberts. "May his son grow up knowing that his father was our hero," she said.

We're about to pick new mayors around here, first in St. Petersburg, later in Tampa. It makes you wonder, in that pack of candidates out there, which ones would be able to see to the city when it mattered, to handle a tragedy like this with poise and without politics.

People who know numbers and probabilities and statistics might call it random or coincidence, this sudden spate of tragedy. Still, in newsrooms and police stations, we wait for bad things to happen in a series, often in threes, because, well, they seem to. We count celebrity deaths or school shootings or, after a blessedly quiet few months of hurricane season, when storms stack up.

A long time back, some police agencies had on the criminal report forms a box you checked off along with suspect name and location of offense: phase of moon. An old cop I knew swore bad crime went up with the full moon. Anything to make sense of it.

I am driving home toward the bridge the night the boy was killed. (In smiling pictures in the news, he still seems like a boy, a son, a brother.) I pass the high school on the south end. In a couple of days, teenagers hefting backpacks will be walking over that bridge to get here. I cross over to the other side, passing where he died.

Police, I know, are working vigilantly to solve his case. But now there is no sign of what happened here, no sirens or crime scene tape. Just the cars passing, the darkening sky overhead and the river moving steadily on below.

Tampa is shaken as murders keep coming 08/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 21, 2009 7:56am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bigger ships carry Georgia ports to record cargo volumes

    Economic Development

    SAVANNAH, Ga. — Bigger ships arriving through an expanded Panama Canal pushed cargo volumes at Georgia's seaports to record levels in fiscal 2017, the Georgia Ports Authority announced Monday.

    The Port of Savannah moved a record 3.85 million container units in fiscal 2017, the state said, benefiting from the larger ships that can now pass through an expanded Panama Canal.
  2. Rays' Evan Longoria: "We have all the belief in the world in here"

    Blogs

    The weekend sweep by Texas and four-game overall losing streak has some Rays fans - based on their tweets and emails - questioning the team's ability to make the playoffs and suggesting they might as well trade away their key parts.

  3. FWC: Fish away for invasive lionfish

    Water

    Times staff

    What could be better than fishing and helping save the Gulf of Mexico?

    Add prizes.

    Lionfish, originally from the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, are an invasive species in the Gulf of Mexico. [LARA CERRI  |  Times]
  4. Gerald McCoy cares too much about what you think of him

    The Heater

    Gerald McCoy is right. We are going to miss him when he's gone.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is one of 16 players to record at least five sacks in each of the past five seasons. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Ronde Barber says comments about McCoy 'sensationalized'

    Blogs

    If anyone thinks Ronde Barber was throwing shade at Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, think again.

    "That anyone would assume I would say the best player on the defense isn’t a bad dude is irresponsible and sensationalizing a quote to serve their own means,'' Ronde Barber said.