'We got a nut running around, so I'm protecting my family': Tampa residents take up arms amid killings

PHOTO: A makeshift memorial for shooting victim Anthony Naiboa sits on a sidewalk in the Seminole Heights section of Tampa, Fla., Oct. 24, 2017. PlayChris O'Meara/AP
WATCH Tampa residents staying armed while killer is on the loose

There is safety in numbers.

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And weapons.

That's the thinking of some Tampa residents who have been reeling since three people were gunned down in separate instances in the same quiet neighborhood of Seminole Heights for no apparent reason.

“It’s scary,” Sarah Hamilton told ABC News through tears, as she unloaded brown bagged groceries from a pickup truck.

So far, few connections have been found between the victims, other than the proximity of the crime scenes to one another and the fact that they appear to have been alone when they were shot to death.

For Hamilton, every day passed like an eternity, waiting alone in her house -- just steps from two of the three slayings.

Fear is so palpable here that Hamilton has changed up her routine, doing errands in the daylight and never alone.

She also refuses to leave home to feed or let her dog Bosco relieve himself unless she or her partner are packing a gun.

“We won’t even go into the backyard without [the gun],” Hamilton said. “I won’t even let my dog [outside] to go to the bathroom.”

PHOTO: Ron Davis and Sarah Hamilton told ABC News that every sound has them jumping and they refuse to be outside alone or leave home without carrying a loaded gun since the third victim Anthony Naiboa, 20, was fatally shot by the still at-large murderer.ABC News
Ron Davis and Sarah Hamilton told ABC News that every sound has them jumping and they refuse to be outside alone or leave home without carrying a loaded gun since the third victim Anthony Naiboa, 20, was fatally shot by the still at-large murderer.

Hamilton’s breaking point came back on Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. when Anthony Naiboa, 20, was shot to death on North 15th Street as he got off on the wrong bus stop.

Naiboa’s murder made three slayings in less than two weeks. Police say they believe the slayings are linked.

Days before, on Oct. 9, 22-year-old college student Benjamin Mitchell was idling at a bus stop only steps away from his home when he was shot at around 9 p.m.

PHOTO: A surveillance video of a person of interest is shown here from Tampa Bay Police Department.Tampa Bay Police Department
A surveillance video of a person of interest is shown here from Tampa Bay Police Department.

Two days later police believe 32-year-old Monica Hoffa was shot in the evening while attempting to meet up with a friend, police say.

Two days passed before Hoffa’s remains turned up in a vacant lot located at New Orleans Avenue East.

The calamity has become so palpable for Hamilton and other on-edge residents.

“I call him and tell him ‘I can’t wait for you to get home from work. I don’t want to be here by myself,” she said.

Hamilton counts the minutes each day until, Ron Davis, who works for the postal service, returns home.

When Naiboa was murdered, Davis said tactical police canvassed his home to try to nab the killer.

Since that night, Davis unlocked his gun safe and scattered an assortment of artillery in different rooms.

“The SWAT team went through our house and looked around,” he said. “That made me pretty nervous.”

Because Davis says he has a carry permit, he said he’s “always packing” a gun whenever he and Hamilton leave.

“We all have our guns out ... Now’s the time,” he said, as he brandished a revolver he said was loaded with .410 bullets. “We got a nut running around, so I’m protecting my family.

“Everything I do I do with a gun right now.”

PHOTO: Kim Pitt told ABC News she refuses to walk her son to school, electing instead to drive him after the three unsolved murders sent shivers through her Seminole Heights neighborhood.ABC News
Kim Pitt told ABC News she refuses to walk her son to school, electing instead to drive him after the three unsolved murders sent shivers through her Seminole Heights neighborhood.

Anxious residents bolt their doors

For 67 years, Matilda Lato has called Seminole Heights home.

She says that in the nearly seven decades but has never witnessed anything that can compare with this month's murders.

She says all she can do is "hope for the best."

"We keep our doors locked," said Lato, who was leaning on a cane. "[I] hope they catch whoever's doing this."

Police have blanketed the neighborhood since the murders took place.

PHOTO: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn spoke to ABC News that the Seminole Heights neighborhood may be feeling afraid to leave their houses after three people were shot and killed in October, but vowed, We’re going to get this person. ABC News
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn spoke to ABC News that the Seminole Heights neighborhood may be feeling "afraid to leave their houses" after three people were shot and killed in October, but vowed, "We’re going to get this person."

From marked cars parked by an elementary school to uniformed cops riding bicycles and and patrolmen wearing neon yellow vests to help usher kids to and fro.

It's all part of the design to ferret out the person or people behind the attacks.

The increased police presence provided instant relief to Kim Pitt.

"That just makes me feel a little better that they’re out and about," she said.

The mom told ABC News that after the three murders she's resorted to driving her son to school instead of walking.

"It's just safer," she said.

Police say catching killer 'is personal'

"For our cops this is personal," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told ABC News. "We're going to get this person."

PHOTO: The Tampa Police Department gave a press conference about the unsolved murders that have taken place in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa, Oct. 20, 2017. Tampa Police Department/Facebook
The Tampa Police Department gave a press conference about the unsolved murders that have taken place in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa, Oct. 20, 2017.

Earlier in the week, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan told ABC News that he has advised cops during a briefing that, 'Everybody out there is a potential suspect or a potential victim and [you] need to think like that,'" he said.

"We have someone terrorizing the neighborhood," he said, vowing that his fellow cops and FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agents are committed to arresting the killer or killers.

"We're not going to be held hostage by whoever's doing this," he said.

Surveillance video footage of a person of interest circulated by police shows a slender figure wearing a windbreaker who is seen walking at night while repeatedly checking a mobile device.

"Whoever is doing it is able to vanish very quickly," Dugan said.

Pitt said that the killer's random savagery has confounded her.

"There's just some evil people in the world that's just randomly killing people," she said. "It doesn't make any sense to me."

And she is not able to explain it to her son.

"I try not to explain this," she said. "'Cause I don’t want him to be fretful as he grows up and too scared to even come outside."

ABC News' Victor Oquendo contributed to this report.

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