Residents, businesses react to arrest in Seminole Heights murders

Seminole Heights have been hit hard by the atmosphere of fear. Now it hopes things will return to normal.

TAMPA, Fla. - It was the first time Shirley Sutton walked alone along 15th Street, where two of the Seminole Heights shootings happened, in over a month.

 

 

She says day or night, before the arrest, she wouldn't dare step foot outside without her daughter.

“We all been nervous about even coming out the house. Naturally, you know when a killer is loose,” says Sutton. “So, now that they have a suspect I'm feeling a little better.”

News of a suspect arrest spread throughout the neighborhood fast.

The ghost town we’ve seen lately was no more. Many people walking, riding their bikes and hanging out in their front yard Wednesday afternoon.

“We toasted we celebrated. We're just relieved and happy,” says Patricia Collins, who lives in the Southeast Seminole Heights community.

People like Collins tell us being able to hang her Christmas lights alone was refreshing, even if it's in daylight.

“The young people can go to the park now and do all the things they enjoy doing,” says Collins.

Down the street at Giddens Park, a mom and her son coming out to enjoy a nice day.

She didn't want to talk on camera, but says it's the first time in weeks she felt safe to do so.

At the park, we ran into Richard Lowe and his friend Mercedes, who were, of course, talking about the arrest.

While Mercedes continued to bring her dogs to the park, Lowe said he hasn't been on his bike until now.

“Hearing that he got (caught) bright and early this morning, everyone is out the park and I'm walking my dog. I feel a lot better, safer,” says Lowe. “He's locked up. Now, come outside. Everyone feeling the freedom.”

“It's nice to see people. We all had the same feeling, like scared, there was no one here, just no one, but now it's like OK, we see people out,” says Mercedes. “So, we all feel OK at least for right now.”

Mercedes says she will remain vigilant despite an arrest being made.

Businesses like Southern Brewing and Winemaking are hoping people will feel safe again and come back and support them.

Owner Kelly Dempsey says she’s seen less foot traffic at night. Now with an arrest, she hopes people will feel safe enough to come out for a drink.

Dempsey is still accepting donations for the “Light the Heights” initiative, where they plan to put Christmas lights on nearly all the houses in the area.

Boxes will be at all Seminole Heights businesses, where you can drop off the following:

  • Christmas Lights - New & Used
  • Extension Cords
  • Yard Stakes 
  • Projectors
  • Solar Powered Lights & Projectors for Vacant Homes/Lots

The following locations are still accepting donations:

  • Ella's
  • Fodder & Shine
  • Richard's Automotive Service
  • Front Porch
  • Ebisu Sushi Shack
  • The Christmas tree lot at Seminole Heights United Methodist Church
  • Jai Dee Massage & Yoga Studio
  • The Mermaid Tavern
  • Two Broke Spokes

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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