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Tampa police seek tips after family of 5 shot at while sleeping in car

A bullet grazed the mother’s head when one or more suspects opened fire on the family’s car parked at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex early Wednesday, police said.
Tampa police investigators work at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex on Wednesday after at least one suspect opened fire on this car as a family of five slept inside. Detectives were working Wednesday to identify the shooter or shooters and asked the public for tips.
Tampa police investigators work at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex on Wednesday after at least one suspect opened fire on this car as a family of five slept inside. Detectives were working Wednesday to identify the shooter or shooters and asked the public for tips. [ Tampa Police Department ]
Published Oct. 5|Updated Oct. 6

TAMPA — A family of five was sleeping in their car at a Tampa recreation center early Wednesday morning when gunshots rang out.

None of the children in the car — ages 9, 4 and 3 — was injured in the shooting in the parking lot of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex, but a bullet grazed their mother’s head, Tampa police Chief Mary O’Connor said.

The mother, who is nine weeks pregnant, is expected to recover, O’Connor said during a news conference at the scene Wednesday morning.

Investigators had few leads at that point, and O’Connor asked the public for help identifying and locating a suspect or suspects.

“As far as we can tell at this point, this may just be a random act of violence,” O’Connor said.

The family had nowhere to stay, so they parked in the lot of the center at 2200 N Oregon Ave. and covered the car’s windows with T-shirts, O’Connor said. About 4:30 a.m., the father saw the headlights of a vehicle that had pulled up near their car, then heard gunshots. He yelled for everyone to get down, and after the vehicle left, he realized his wife had been shot in the head.

The woman was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa and was in stable condition.

A Tampa police forensic investigator works at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex on Wednesday after at least one suspect opened fire on this car as a family of five slept inside.
A Tampa police forensic investigator works at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex on Wednesday after at least one suspect opened fire on this car as a family of five slept inside. [ Tampa Police Department ]

More than a dozen shots were fired at the family’s car before the suspect vehicle sped away, heading south on Oregon Avenue, according to police. Detectives did not have a solid description of the vehicle and don’t know how many suspects were involved, O’Connor said. The vehicle may be a dark-colored, two-door car, possibly from a model year between 2006 and 2012.

“We are actively scanning the area for any leads — suspects, suspect vehicles, anyone that may have seen anything,” O’Connor said. “Unfortunately, we’re not coming up with a lot but we know that there’s people out there that know who may have hurt this family.”

O’Connor reminded potential tipsters that they can remain anonymous.

Wednesday evening, police released a photo that detectives say may have been involved in the shooting.

Police released a photo Wednesday evening that detectives say may have been involved in an incident in which a family of five was shot at while sleeping in their car Wednesday morning.  Anyone who recognizes it is asked to call the Tampa Police Department or Crime Stoppers.
Police released a photo Wednesday evening that detectives say may have been involved in an incident in which a family of five was shot at while sleeping in their car Wednesday morning. Anyone who recognizes it is asked to call the Tampa Police Department or Crime Stoppers. [ Photo provided / Tampa Police Department ]

According to O’Connor, the family previously lived in Tampa, moved out of state and then returned to the area about three days ago. A relative didn’t have room for them, so they’d been living in a rental car.

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Police did not release their names due to Marsy’s Law. The father is in his 30s and the mother is in her 20s. They have a 9-year-old girl, a 4-year-old boy, and a 3-year-old girl.

The children were staying with a family friend on Wednesday. The city has arranged for the family to stay at a hotel for at least the next week, O’Connor said.

Anyone who recognizes the vehicle or has any other information can call 813-231-6130 or use the Tampa Police Department’s mobile app. Tips also may be shared anonymously with Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay by calling 800-873-8477, going to crimestopperstb.com or using the Crime Stoppers app and selecting “Tampa.” Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest in the case.

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