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Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017
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Another suspicious death in Tampa's Seminole Heights (w/video)

TAMPA — Police were investigating what they were calling a suspicious death in southeast Seminole Heights Thursday night, near the location of two fatal shootings last week.

Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan said investigators believe the latest death may be related to the prior two, though he did not say how.

"We are treating it as though they are related, but it is still early in the investigation," Dugan said at a news conference Thursday night. "We are going to treat them as though they are related until we find out otherwise."

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The dead person, whom police had not identified, was found at N 15th and Conover streets, about 100 yards from one of the earlier shootings. The area was cordoned off Thursday night, with more than two dozen patrol cars arriving at the scene along with police dogs and a tactical team — every officer available, Dugan said.

Police said little about how the person found was killed and did not release an age or gender, though at one point Dugan used the pronoun "him."

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The interim chief said officers were patrolling the area when they heard gunshots. They arrived in the area of the gunfire then spread out, locating the victim.

"Unfortunately we found him too late," Dugan said.

Police have previously said that the prior two shootings may be related, though they have not said why they think so. There was no apparent relationship between the two people killed.

On Oct. 9, Benjamin Edward Mitchell, 22, was found at 15th Street and E Frierson Avenue near a bus stop a block from the latest death. He later died from his injuries at a local hospital. He had no criminal record, police said.

Monica Caridad Hoffa, 32, was found a few days later, Oct. 13, in the 1000 block of E New Orleans Avenue, about 10 blocks from the other two people killed. Police said she was likely shot a day or two earlier. A city worker found her body on a vacant lot.

Southeast Seminole Heights is roughly bordered by Nebraska Avenue to the west, 15th Street to the east, Hillsborough Avenue to the north and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the south.

Police earlier this week took the unusual step of encouraging residents of the area not to walk alone at night. They've also asked people to keep external lights on at their homes, offering to provide free light bulbs to those who need them.

Dugan said officers have been patrolling the neighborhood by car and on foot. He urged residents to come forward if they know anything about any of the deaths.

"It's frustrating that no one has seen anything," he said.

Contact Jonathan Capriel at [email protected] Follow @JonathanCapriel.

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