TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s been more than a month now since 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell became the first victim in what police believe is a string of connected killings in Seminole Heights.
Since Mitchell’s death on Oct. 9, 32-year-old Monica Hoffa, 20-year-old Anthony Naiboa and 60-year-old Ronald Felton have also been killed in the same neighborhood.
As the community remains on edge, police have been hard at work searching for the killer.
Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan sat down with News Channel 8 on Sunday to talk about the investigation.
“We have received over 3,600 tips since this began and every day, we get more and more,” Dugan said. “It’s a painstaking process, it’s very slow and methodical to go through those tips but what it does is it helps us eliminate people. And it’s moving but I’ve said it from the beginning, it’s not moving as quickly as we need it to, to bring an end to all this.”
Tampa police have been out in the neighborhood in full force, and as the search continues, other law enforcement have also stepped in to help.
“It’s been an entire Bay area effort, from Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri to Sheriff Chad Chronister in Hillsborough County,” Chief Dugan said. “The Tampa Police Department, we own it. It’s our job, it’s our investigation but we’ve reached out. We’ve had FBI and ATF involved since the beginning and it’s really a group effort of so many different agencies.”
Chief Dugan tells News Channel 8 his department believes all four murders are related at this point, but says there’s a chance they might be wrong.
“I think our intentions are well and I’m pretty convinced that these are all related. I wouldn’t want to create a panic out there if I didn’t have the hunch and the information we have,” he said.
Last month, police released video of a “person of interest” running near the scene of Mitchell’s murder. Last week, police released another video that they believe shows the same person near where Felton was killed. Police have since identified that person as a suspect.
But Dugan and his department are still asking for the public’s help. He wants everyone in the area to carefully watch any surveillance video they have several times, then report anything suspicious to police.
“This is not a neighborhood where we have these kinds of problems,” Chief Dugan said. “So I question whether someone just doesn’t know it. I really don’t think there’s someone covering for them unless it’s a loved one or a close associate. I think at this point somebody would come forward if they had the information.”
You can see the full interview with Chief Dugan by watching the video above.
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