SEMINOLE HEIGHTS, Fla. - Tampa Police have identified a recent high school graduate with autism as the third victim of a killer targeting Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood.
Interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan says officers were patrolling the area of Northeast Seminole Heights around 8 p.m. on Thursday when they heard a possible gunshot. A short time later, they found Anthony Taino Naiboa, 20, shot dead on the sidewalk. Naiboa was found on N. 15th Street between E Conover Street and E Wilder Avenue.
Before Naiboa was identified, detectives in the neighborhood learned Naiboa's parents were concerned he had not come home yet.
"My son, he just came out of work last night. He took the wrong bus," said his dad Casimar Naiboa.
Naiboa, who is autistic, had taken a city bus and was expected home by that time.
They later determined that he took the wrong bus and believe he was going to another bus stop but did not make it.
HART released the following statement on the violence in Seminole Heights and safety measures in place to protect customers and employees:
The recent senseless acts of violence in Seminole Heights are something that no family or neighborhood should have to endure. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of Anthony Naiboa, Monica Caridad Hoffa and Benjamin Edward Mitchell.
HART is actively participating with the Tampa Police Department to provide any information that can assist in this investigation. Additionally, we've rerouted Route 9 via 22nd Street from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Hillsborough Avenue from the hours of 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. The change will remain in effect while the investigation continues.
We will continue to partner with law enforcement throughout the investigation and communicate safety information to our customers, both online and in print. We ask that anyone with information that can aid in the identification and capture of the suspect or suspects, please contact Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay at 1-800-873-8477 or www.crimestopperstb.com.
"He was like, 'don't worry, I'll be home quick.' I said, 'ok.' He said, 'I promise.' Didn't hear from him after that," said his stepmom Maria Rodriguez.
Naiboa recently graduated from Middleton High School. His parents say he is the oldest of 5 siblings.
Detectives believe the shooting is linked to the two shootings in the area that occurred last week.
Naiboa was killed only a few hundred feet from where Benjamin Mitchell, 22, was killed on October 9. Mitchell was murdered roughly one block north of where Naiboa was shot. A third victim, Monica Caridad Hoffa, 32, was shot and killed under a half a mile away just last week.
Detectives have not discovered any connection between the three victims. In each of the shootings, it appears the victim was alone and was not robbed. There is no apparent motive, according to TPD.
"This is senseless. Somebody could shoot people just like that. This person needs to be caught," said Naiboa's father.
"We still have no leads, we have no motives," Chief Dugan said during the press conference. "It's clear to me that they're all linked."
When asked if he would categorize it as a serial killer, Chief Dugan replied: “We can call it what we want. If that brings attention to this… That’s fine.”
Detectives are urging members of the public to watch a surveillance video from the night of the October 9 shooting, and help police identify the person in the video. Detectives want to talk with the individual because they believe they were in the area the night of the first shooting, and may have seen or heard something.
Detectives are warning citizens to stick together and not get caught outside alone.
"We have someone terrorizing the neighborhood... Don't walk alone," Chief Dugan said. "Be aware of your surroundings."
"If you're walking alone, you're either a suspect or a potential victim," Chief Dugan warned.
Crime Stoppers and ATF have teamed up to offer an $25,000 reward in the cases. Anyone with any information regarding this case and who wants to be eligible for a cash reward is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477), report anonymously online at www.crimestopperstb.com.
Mary Stringini is a reporter for ABC Action News. Follow her on Twitter @MaryWFTS.