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Search Continues for Armed Suspect in USF & New Tampa Area

Tampa Bay Times

Law enforcement officials are continuing a search near the USF Tampa campus and New Tampa area for a suspect in a series of home invasions and violent incidents Thursday night. 

The suspect was reportedly tracked down to the woods north of 42nd Street and south of Amberly Drive in Tampa. Law enforcement said deep water in the woods is making the search difficult, but their dogs can track suspects through the water.

"The thing about the water is you've gotta come out somewhere," Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department Spokesman Major J.R. Burton told the Tampa Bay Times.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's officials say the incidents began around 11 p.m. when a man forced his way into an apartment at Cambridge Woods Apartments near 42nd Street north of East Fletcher Avenue. He reportedly bound four men and sexually assaulted four women inside the apartment. He told the victims not to call the police for half an hour, which they reportedly did out of fear.

Tampa Police say the man then confronted a woman outside her apartment at the nearby Eagle's Point Apartments on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and forced her into her apartment at gunpoint. She reportedly pleaded with the suspect to leave her alone and he fled the scene.

From there, he reportedly made his way to The Oaks apartment complex, just across 42nd Street from the first incident. He entered an apartment there where a party was being held. He forced 25 people into a bedroom at gunpoint. He fired at least one shot into the floor, but no one was hurt.

After he fled there, he encountered a man who ran to his own apartment. The suspect chased him and fired at least three shots at him, hitting the door at least once but missing the man.

Deputies searched a number of nearby apartments, stopped at least two cabs and conducted searches of a number of other vehicles leaving the area.

Law enforcement described the suspect as an African-American man in his 20s, with tattoos on his neck and arms, with medium length dreadlocks.

USF put out an e-alert around 2 a.m. warning students and staff of "an unsafe situation," telling them to avoid the area north of campus. An "event over" e-alert was issued around 6:30 a.m., but another e-alert at 10:40 a.m. told people to remain vigilant and report suspicious activities.

Eighteen schools in the USF and New Tampa areas were placed on modified lockdown out of what was called an "abundance of caution." Classes are in session, but outdoor activities are canceled.

MOSI Bowers Whitley Pizzo Elementary USF Patel Muller Elementary Witter Elementary Turner Elementary Bartels Middle Pride Elementary Clark Elementary Wharton High Heritage Elementary Benito Middle Hunters Green Elementary Liberty Middle Freedom High Chiles Elementary Tampa Palms Elementary

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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