TAMPA — When asked Friday if Tampa police believe a serial killer is stalking the residents of Seminole Heights, interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan paused for a moment.
"We can call it what we want," said a clearly frustrated Dugan, who called a news conference to talk about the discovery Thursday of yet another body, the third person to be shot and killed in the neighborhood in 11 days. "If that brings attention to it, that's fine."
The latest killing took place about 8 p.m. Thursday, Dugan said. It was both frustrating and hauntingly tragic.
Anthony Naiboa, 20, should not even have been in the southeast part of Seminole Heights when he was shot, apparently without motive. After he left work Thursday night, he got on the wrong bus. His body was found near the intersection of 15th Street N. and E. Frierson Avenue, just 200 yards from where he left the bus and began walking.
Police officers who were flooding the area because of the two previous murders heard the gun shots, Dugan said, but arrived too late. The shooter was gone.
Authorities are releasing little information about their investigation, which is being assisted by the FBI. The three victims, Naiboa, Benjamin Edward Mitchell, 22, and Monica Caridad Hoffa, 32, are all connected by proximity and time-frame, said Dugan, who declined to say whether there is any connection between the type of weapon or ammunition used in the killings.
As of now, he said, there is no suspect or motive.
In addition to the FBI's help, Dugan said the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and St. Petersburg Police have offered support. Crime Stoppers and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are teaming up on an $25,000 reward for information that leads to a suspect's arrest.
Meanwhile, the hunt continues.
"I go from frustration to anger,'' Dugan said. "Now we have someone terrorizing the neighborhood. It's just difficult to see this happen."
Naiboa's father began to worry Thursday night when his son didn't come home. He finally called police.
"We had to regretfully inform him that his son had been murdered," the chief said.
The father of Benjamin Mitchell, whose body was found Oct. 9, was still grappling Friday with his loss along with the news that someone else's son had been killed. He met Friday with Naiboa's parents and they grieved together.
"To hear there was a third victim, and for him to meet Anthony Naibo's parents this morning, you can just imagine what's that's like," Dugan said.
Authorities have said repeatedly that the victims did nothing wrong and there is no connection between them.
But there are similarities.
All three victims were bus riders and all three were shot at or near bus stops. Mitchell and Naiboa both attended Middleton High School.
Mitchell was waiting for a bus at the stop on North 15th and E. Frierson when he was shot. Two days later, Hoffa was killed, but it would be another two days until her body was found on the 1000 block of E. New Orleans Avenue — about six blocks west of the Ellicott Street bus stop on the No. 9 line. A city worker found her body in a vacant lot.
Naiboa was found at North 15th and Conover streets, a few hundred yards south from the No. 9 bus stop where he had gotten off and where Mitchell was killed 11 days earlier.
Hoffa did not drive and relied heavily on public transportation, said Caz Taylor, 34, a close friend of Hoffa.
"Every day she was walking to the bus stop," Taylor said. "That was not unusual. Her main mode of transportation was her feet."
Taylor met Hoffa when the two were teens and saw each other nearly every day until Taylor moved to Ohio.
"She was so witty and smart," Taylor said. "She made friends everywhere she went."
A Celebration of Life service for Hoffa is scheduled for Saturday at the Gonzalez Funeral Home, 7209 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.
Mitchell was attending classes at Hillsborough Community College, where he majored in psychology.
His cousin, Sheree Allen, said the family moved to Tampa from Las Vegas 10 years ago, hoping for a better life.
"He could be himself here," she said. "He wasn't bullied and kids wouldn't pressure him into things. He kept out of trouble."
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.
In the wake of the shootings, police said they have "blanketed the area" with officers and sent alerts to residents via Alert Tampa.
Mariah Jackson, 18, described heavily armed police entering her Seminole Heights home shortly after 12:30 a.m. Friday.
"They said they were looking for a body," Jackson said.
Detectives also are talking with residents, collecting surveillance video and showing the video of a man recorded walking in the area when the first murder occurred.
Dugan cautions residents not to assume the person in the video is white or black, male or female. Investigators want to know what the person saw and eliminate him or her as a suspect.
At this point, authorities do not believe the killings are connected to the shooting death of Dontae Lampkins, 25, whose body was found Jan. 26 in an alleyway between E Mohawk and Comanche avenues in the Hampton Terrace neighborhood of Seminole Heights.
Dugan says residents should keep their porch lights on, stick together and pay attention to their surroundings. That means looking up from smart phones as they're making their way around the neighborhood.
Residents shouldn't hide in their homes, though, the chief said.
"Do cookouts, walk your dog," he said. "We're not going to be held hostage by whoever's doing this."
The chief also had a message for the shooter.
"Enough is enough," he said. "I don't know what your motive is. I don't know what your problem is. There's been enough carnage. You have severely affected some families."
Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman. Staff writers Jonathan Capriel and Richard Danielson contributed to this report.
Anyone with video or information that could help the investigation into the three murders can contact Tampa Police at (813) 231-6130.