TAMPA — Hours before University of Tampa student Ryan McCall was gunned down blocks from home, he told a neighbor that he felt safe in his new riverside neighborhood.
Amelia Lubrano, 62, said McCall and his new roommates invited her and her husband to a party the evening of Aug. 18. They were celebrating a friend's 21st birthday.
The Lubranos stopped by early, around 5 p.m., and chatted over grilled burgers, impressed that the young college students would even think to invite them.
McCall, 21, told Lubrano that even though he liked the location of the house he was going to share with four other students, he was mindful of how easy it would be to unknowingly stumble into less-safe neighborhoods.
"When you're in a city you're unfamiliar with," she recalled him saying, "you don't know where you shouldn't be going."
Less than 10 hours later, at 3 a.m. Wednesday, McCall, 21, was walking home from the Retreat Lounge near UT's campus when a stranger approached him and demanded money.
As McCall's out-of-town visitor ran, a shot rang out. McCall fell, mortally wounded, at the base of the Eugene Holtsinger Bridge, which crosses the Hillsborough River on N Boulevard.
His killer remains on the loose.
News of McCall's death struck Lubrano hard, considering all they'd discussed. She wrote the McCall family, telling them of her conversation with their son.
"When he spoke of his family," Lubrano said, "his face lit up."
On Monday, police and McCall's family continued their plea for the public's help in finding the shooter.
"Detectives know there is someone who has information and they're on the fence about coming forward," Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said.
Detectives are analyzing other armed robberies in the area, looking for similarities.
The shooter is a black man in his 30s, about 5 feet 10 inches tall, 180 pounds with a husky build and a goatee. He wore a white T-shirt.
Police say the shooter wasn't happy with the amount of money McCall and friend Michael Harahan, 21, handed over.
McCall's family gathered Monday in Downington, Pa., Ryan's hometown. Funeral services are Thursday.
Kevin McCall, Ryan's father, said he is eager for the shooter to be identified and found.
"I don't want him to get anyone else," he said.
Anyone with information was asked to call Tampa police at (813) 231-6130.
Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3383.