Tampa police seek "person of interest" seen in multiple videos at time of first Seminole Heights murder (WITH VIDEO)

The person is not a suspect, per se.

click to enlarge Obviously, it's tough to decipher any characteristics of this person, let alone why he or she was there in the first place. - Screen shot, YouTube/Tampa Police Department
Screen shot, YouTube/Tampa Police Department
Obviously, it's tough to decipher any characteristics of this person, let alone why he or she was there in the first place.

Grainy footage shows somebody in a long hooded shirt walking to — then sprinting away from — the spot where Benjamin Mitchell was shot the night of October 9 right around the time of the murder. At one point, he or she takes what appears to be a phone out of his or her jacket pocket and flips it in his or her hand. The person appears to be a male, but the footage is so blurry no one can really be all that sure. (See the video below.)

Police want to know who that person is, but they insist he or she is not necessarily a suspect in the recent string of deadly and seemingly random shootings in the area — something they hope to stress so that no one is afraid to come forward.

During a press conference Thursday, interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan showed the nearly two-minute video, which was patched together from surveillance footage from multiple homes with cameras positioned from multiple angles. Because some of the footage of the person walking was taken from so far away, police had to zoom in on him or her, which made the video grainy.

At this point, Dugan said, police just want to know who the person is.

“Let me be clear: we're not saying that this person is a suspect, but why, after this long — we've had this video out there for so long — why have they not come forward?” Dugan said. “We believe that this person has ties to this neighborhood, and we want to speak to them.”

The person could have been near the site of the shooting — the first of three in the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood in barely 11 days — for any number of reasons, and could have been running away for any number of reasons, which is why Tampa police don't necessarily want to single him or her out as a suspect.

“There are probably, I can think of four reasons why this person is running: One, they may be late for dinner; two, they're out exercising; three, they heard gunshots, and four, they just murdered Benjamin Mitchell," Dugan told reporters gathered. "You have any questions?”

Of course, the person in the video may have had nothing to do with the murders, but was in the wrong place at the wrong time. If that person is a black male who happened to be walking in the area, fear that he'd be automatically suspected could be reason enough to not show up at police headquarters in an attempt to offer a witness account.

At his point, they're just looking for information, though during a Monday night community meeting, Dugan told those gathered that essentially everyone is a potential suspect at this point.

While, Dugan said, police have been receiving tons of tips from members of the public, this has only been the second round of video the department has released to the public. He said they're being cautious for fear that the public could jump to the wrong conclusion about who the killer is.

They don't need speculation, he said; they need evidence.

“When we release this video, everybody's going to crawl out of the woodwork," Dugan said. "We're going to hear from profilers and professionals and retired law enforcement. And they're going to create a lot of speculation that leads to absolutely nothing. They look at odds. This isn't Vegas. This is a homicide investigation. We need names, not speculation. We need people to tell us this is who I think it is, not a broad range of age and suspicion.”


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