TAMPA, Fla. – Tampa police confirmed Wednesday that a fourth deadly shooting in the Seminole Heights neighborhood is linked to three previous unsolved murders in the area since October.
An unidentified man who appeared on surveillance video near two of four shootings in the neighborhood is officially a suspect, police said.
Interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan showed both videos during a Wednesday news conference, though neither shows an actual shooting.
The first video shows a man walking about the time of the first fatal shooting on Oct. 9. The second video shows the same man walking early Tuesday morning about the time of 60-year-old Ronald Felton's slaying, Dugan said.
The chief implored any member of the community who might recognize the man to contact police.
"Someone has to know who this individual is," Dugan said.
Dugan said Tuesday it is extremely possible that the killer lives in the neighborhood.
"Whoever is doing it, they're familiar with the neighborhood and they're able to vanish very quickly," he said.
The figure on both videos matched witness descriptions of a black male, 6 feet to 6-foot-2, with a thin build and light complexion.
"Someone may recognize their walking pattern, how they move and determine this person does hang out in this area where the murders occurred," said Gil Smith, News4Jax crime and safety analyst.
Smith said the little amount of suspect information makes it harder for police to track down the killer.
"Sometimes, investigators will use what they call 'linkage analysis,' where someone will study each crime to see if there's any similar patterns involved in terms of behavior that could lead them to a certain person," Smith said.
Law enforcement spent Tuesday canvassing the Seminole Heights neighborhood, shutting down streets and knocking on doors. No arrests were made.
Dugan noted Wednesday that the total reward for information leading to the killer's arrest and conviction is up to $91,000. That includes $50,000 from the FBI, $20,000 from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, $10,000 from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, $5,000 from Crime Stoppers and $6,000 from several community fundraisers.
About two dozen detectives continue to go through hours and hours of surveillance footage collected from the neighborhood, Dugan said. Police had received about 450 tips Tuesday, bringing the total to more than 2,300.
Residents and police have been on edge since Oct. 9, when 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell was shot to death. Two days later, 32-year-old Monica Hoffa, was slain. And on Oct. 19, Anthony Naiboa, 20, was killed after taking the wrong bus home from his new job.
All of the October victims were either getting on or off a city bus, or were at a bus stop when they were shot, police said. It was unclear if Tuesday's victim was near a bus stop.
"If they think they're focusing on a certain pattern, they may change up to try to throw off law enforcement," Smith said. "But, usually, they make some type of mistake because they're very arrogant because they don't understand that they're doing wrong in some cases."
Bryanna Fox, a criminology professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said it is unusual for a serial killer to use a gun.
"A lot of serial killers prefer other methods such as knives or strangulation," she said. "Those tend to be more one-on-one, and that's what most serial killers prefer, a more intimate experience."
Considering the killer used a gun, Smith said, another way police can connect evidence to the suspect is by checking the caliber of the bullets, and if they are linked to the same gun the man used for the slayings.