TAMPA — Police were escorting students to school bus stops this morning as they blanket the Southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood during their investigation of three shooting deaths over a period of 11 days that they consider to be related.
It was the same approach police took Sunday night as they provided an escort during a neighborhood candlelight vigil in memory of shooting victims Anthony Naiboa, 20; Benjamin Edward Mitchell, 22; and Monica Caridad Hoffa, 32.
In addition, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit announced that the Route 9 bus is being rerouted in Southwest Seminole Heights after consultation with the Tampa Police Department. They were scheduled to review the move today.
All three shooting victims were bus riders, police and acquaintances said. One was found dead at a Route 9 bus stop and another had missed a bus and was walking when he was shot, both along North 15th Street, police said.
Still, interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan reiterated Monday morning that police are encouraging residents of the neighborhood not to hole up in their homes.
"We want people outside; this is not a bad neighborhood," Dugan said in an interview on 970-WFLA radio. "We need people outside telling us what's going on."
Dugan said during a news conference Friday "that's fine" to call the killings the work of a serial killer, but he has declined to say whether the same weapon was used and said this morning that investigators aren't sure there is one shooter.
Police and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn have scheduled a community meeting 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Edison Elementary School auditorium, 1607 E Curtis Street, where concerned residents can talk with investigators.
Mitchell was found Oct. 9 at the bus stop on North 15th and East Frierson Avenue, Hoffa was found Oct. 14 in a vacant lot about six blocks west, and Naiboa's body was found Thursday night at North 15th and Conover streets, 200 yards south of the bus stop.
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