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Mural is unveiled to honor shooting victims killed in Seminole Heights

TAMPA — The inscriptions were left to comfort and inspire a community.

"We are Seminole Heights! Stay safe, stay strong," wrote Karen Farb.

"Good always prevails. Stay safe my friends," penned Anna Molina.

On Sunday, on an exterior wall of a vacant building at 4725 N Nebraska Ave. in Seminole Heights, a four-panel mural was unveiled to honor the three victims gunned down last month in crimes police believe were random but related.

A suspect has not yet been named.

Each of the victims — Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa and Anthony Naiboa — have a mural panel with their biography and a picture that is part photograph and part painting.

A fourth section has a photo featuring a typical Seminole Heights bungalow.

And on each panel, passers-by on Sunday were invited to write messages to the deceased and the community.

"We are a family, all from Tampa," said Molina, who resides in South Tampa. "It affects us all."

The mural was the idea of David Lee, who owns the vacant building.

He was in Mexico as the shootings occurred, within 10 days and a few blocks of each other in October.

"I felt helpless and wondered what I could do," Lee said. "Maybe this can bring the community together and be an outlet."

Families of the victims were there for the unveiling, Lee said, and took part in writing on the panels. "It was pretty emotional," he said.

Hoffa's mother Olga Lavandeira signed the section dedicated to her daughter and to the other victims.

"Ben, I know you're with Monica & Anthony in God's presence," she wrote on Mitchell's panel. On her daughter's she penned, "I love you so much. I know you're with God and are waiting for us. You will always be in my heart."

The mural will remain up for a few weeks. The wall will then host revolving artwork featuring aspects of the Seminole Heights community.

This first mural was unveiled at the start of the annual Taste of the Heights, meant to showcase the area and its food and drink.

As many as 1,000 people attended, said Beverly Morrow, a trustee with the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association that organizes the event.

This year's, she added, is particularly important because of the killings.

People remain afraid to travel to the area at night.

"Businesses are suffering right now," she said. "They need support."

Some event-proceeds will benefit the families of the victims, she said.

Early Sunday morning another shooting occurred in Seminole Heights, though police said it is unrelated to the earlier three.

"There is concern right now," building owner Lee said of the string of shootings. "But the Heights will recover."

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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