UPDATE: Charlie Christopher Bates, the 24-year-old suspect linked with a string of home invasions and sexual batteries, has been captured after a car chase that ended in a shootout, according to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO).
Bates was shot once and is police custody. No law enforcement officers were injured.
HCSO reportedly received a call from Florida Hospital at 11 p.m. Thursday reporting that two females had just been sexually battered at Cambridge Wood Apartments off 42nd street.
The suspect allegedly entered the apartment and bound four male occupants with duct tape and sexually battered four female USF students, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies say the suspect then invaded the apartment of a female at Eagle’s Point apartment before fleeing to Oaks Apartments on foot, where he forced 25 people attending a party into a room at gunpoint and fired at least one round into the carpet.
The suspect was reportedly chased out by a male, who the suspect fired at least three rounds at, but did not hit.
In a press conference held late Friday morning by Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor and the Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office, Castor said an alert had been put out to home-owners associations and local communities surrounding the USF area.
The search area extends from Bruce B. Downs Blvd. and 43rdSt. and as far as the east side of the USF Tampa campus (50th Street and Fletcher).
HCSO also warned individuals within the perimeter to stay in their homes.
“People should be very cautious when leaving their houses,” McKinnon said. “This man is very dangerous and that’s the way he is going to be treated until we find him. And we will find him.”
The suspect, who police believe is linked to two home invasions in August and September, is reported as being 5-foot-9, 160-170 pounds and has tattoos on his neck and arms.
USF sent out an emergency notification early this morning warning students and faculty of an “unsafe” situation, but sent out a second alert stating the “event was over.” A third text was later sent asking community members to remain vigilant.
HCSO public information officer Larry McKinnon said the suspect remains at large, but that police used K9s and helicopters to search the area until 3:30 a.m., including searching vehicles and nearby apartments and alerting cab companies. McKinnon said he is confident the suspect will be found soon.
“Currently a score of HCSO detectives and crime scene investigators are on scene conducting interviews and processing forensic evidence,” he said in an email statement. “These attacks appear to be all connected and at random.”
University Police spokesman Lt. Chris Daniel said the university determines when to send out emergency notifications based on the threat posed to the USF community. Sometimes issuing an “all clear” is a difficult call to make, he said, as the threat to the USF community could be less even if an investigation is ongoing.
McKinnon said he advised students to keep their apartment and vehicle doors locked at all times, as the suspect was able to enter unlocked doors.
Extra security will remain in the area, he said, as the search continues.
Daniel said the USF campus would remain at “business as usual,” but urged students to remain cautious.