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Random Pinellas shootings leave 1 dead, 1 injured, sheriff says

Suspect Elijah McCray, 20, told authorities he was a government-hired assassin, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said in a news conference Thursday.
Elijah Iziah Dera’us McCray, 20, is suspected in two random shootings, one fatal, in the Seminole area.
Elijah Iziah Dera’us McCray, 20, is suspected in two random shootings, one fatal, in the Seminole area. [ Pinellas County Sheriff's Office ]
Published Oct. 14
Updated Oct. 15

A man who shot two random people over the past week has been arrested, according to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

He identified the suspect as Elijah Iziah Dera’us McCray, 20, during a news conference Thursday. During an interview with authorities, McCray said he was a government-hired assassin, Gualtieri said.

McCray is being charged with attempted first-degree murder for a shooting on Oct. 7, along with resisting an officer without violence, authorities say. Pending lab tests, he also faces charges of first-degree murder for a fatal shooting Wednesday night and delinquent in possession of a firearm, according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Office.

A map from the Sheriff's Office indicating where the shootings took place and where the suspect lived.
A map from the Sheriff's Office indicating where the shootings took place and where the suspect lived. [ Courtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office ]

Gualtieri said McCray used a 9 mm handgun with a laser sight to shoot a 40-year-old man who was sitting by the pool area of Bayou Courtyard Apartments, smoking a cigarette, on Oct. 7. When deputies responded to investigate reports of shots fired around 9:52 p.m., they found the man with multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to the hospital, where he was treated and released, Gualtieri said. The man told authorities he did not know the shooter.

At the crime scene, deputies found 9 mm shell casings from several different manufacturers, Gualtieri said.

McCray shot and killed 55-year-old Eddie Lee Hoskins Jr. on Wednesday night, Gualtieri said. Deputies responded to a report of shots fired in the 8400 block of 75th Avenue North around 8:36 p.m. and found Hoskins dead at the scene, the sheriff said. Hoskins had been walking his chihuahua when he was shot, and he did not have his keys or wallet on him, Gualtieri said. The dog was unharmed, he said.

Hoskins also lived at Bayou Courtyard Apartments and knew the first victim — he even helped the man clean his wounds after the Oct. 7 shooting, Gualtieri said. Investigators have determined Hoskins did not know McCray, either, he said. It appears to be a coincidence that both men shot by McCray were from the same apartment complex, but the investigation is ongoing, Gualtieri said.

A car dashcam from a citizen who had been driving northbound on 84th Lane moments before the second shooting captured video of a Lexus that was parked near the scene, Gualtieri said. The Lexus had a headlight out in the video, a detail that helped deputies identify it later. Detectives spoke with several witnesses who reported seeing a Lexus travel to a home at 8305 76th Ave., Gualtieri said.

A snapshot of the Lexus that deputies said McCray was driving when he shot his second victim.
A snapshot of the Lexus that deputies said McCray was driving when he shot his second victim. [ Courtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office ]
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McCray lived at the home, and detectives identified him as a suspect and obtained a search warrant, Gualtieri said. At about 1 p.m. Thursday, as deputies surveilled the house, McCray exited and attempted to flee, Gualtieri said. He was then taken into custody.

While searching the home, deputies found a loaded 9mm handgun with a laser sight under McCray’s pillow in his bed. Ammunition matching the manufacturers from the crime scenes, as well as shooting practice targets, were also found in McCray’s home, the sheriff said.

“This was a true public safety nightmare that was getting ready to unfold,” Gualtieri said.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announces the arrest of a suspect in two random shootings in Seminole during a news conference at the Sheriff's Administration Building in Largo on Thursday,
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announces the arrest of a suspect in two random shootings in Seminole during a news conference at the Sheriff's Administration Building in Largo on Thursday, [ Natalie Weber / Tampa Bay Times ]