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Hunt for killer in Tampa

Police and federal agents with rifles checked car trunks, banged on doors and gathered forensic evidence in a Tampa neighbourhood Tuesday as they hunted for the killer believed responsible for gunning down four people for no apparent reason in just over a month.

The normally quiet, working-class Seminole Heights section of bungalows and palm trees was sealed off with yellow crime-scene tape after the latest killing in the neighbourhood — that of a 60-year-old man who was shot from behind as he crossed a street shortly after 5 a.m.

Interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said it is extremely possible that the killer — or killers — live in the neighbourhood.

"Whoever is doing it, they're familiar with the neighbourhood and they're able to vanish very quickly," Dugan said.

Residents and police have been on edge since Oct. 9, when 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell was shot to death. Two days later, 32-year-old Monica Hoffa, was slain. And on Oct. 19, Anthony Naiboa, 20, was killed after taking the wrong bus home from his new job.

On Tuesday, Ronald Felton, an unemployed construction worker who volunteered at a food bank, was gunned down.

Police cars with flashing lights sat at dozens of intersections, and one major thoroughfare was entirely shut down for much of the day. Law enforcement took over the parking lot at a Baptist church, and a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives bus was parked at the makeshift command centre. Law officers questioned people and took down cell numbers.

"This was a very decent neighbourhood until the last couple of months," sighed Sherry Street, 50, a cook who has lived in the area for seven years. "Up until recently I used to accidentally fall asleep with the door unlocked."

Street said she has stopped walking to the store, taking the bus or sitting outside to smoke at night. Her friends would often stop by and hang out on her porch to talk, but "now they're like, 'I'm not coming to see you.'"



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