TAMPA - A gunman is on the loose after a series of home invasions north of USF. Officials said a man fired shots, raped four women, and forced perhaps 25 people into a bedroom.
Larry McKinnon, spokesperson for Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, said a series of armed home invasions began unfolding before midnight at various nearby apartment complexes near N. 42nd Street north of Fletcher Ave.
Officials believe that all of the incidents are connected and random, and that one man is responsible for all of them. Officers continue to look for the suspect.
McKinnon said a suspect, described as a black male, entered an apartment at the Cambridge Wood Apartments on the west side of 42nd St. just north of Fletcher. The suspect bound four men inside with duct tape and sexually battered four women.
Tampa Police Lt. Hartnett said a gunman approached a woman outside her apartment at Eagle Point around 11:00 p.m. Thursday. The man forced her inside, and the woman talked to him. He eventually left without hurting the woman or taking anything.
The suspect fled on foot to the Oaks Apartments, across 42nd St from the original incident at Cambridge Woods.
There, he entered an apartment where 25 people were attending a party. The suspect forced them all into a bedroom at gunpoint. The suspect fired at least one round into the carpet.
As the suspect left, he encountered a man, who ran away to his nearby apartment as the suspect chased and shot at him. The man got into his apartment and closed the door. The suspect fired at least three rounds without hitting the man. At least one round struck the door.
Deputies with Hillsborough County and Tampa police officers, along with K9 units and aviation, continued to search for the suspect until nearly 3:30 am. Taxi companies were notified and at least two cabs were stopped to verify the identity of the passengers.
Officials searched vehicles leaving the immediate area and nearby apartments to ensure there was no forced entry.
Nearby public schools have been placed on modified lockdown.
Detectives and investigators are on scene and are expected to have a presence throughout the day.
A text message went out around 7:00 a.m. to USF students, saying the event was over, and another media outlet reported a capture, however, as of 9:00 a.m., the gunman remained on the loose.