'Symbol of determination': Seminole Heights victim laid to rest

Funeral services for Anthony Naiboa were held Saturday with the help of the community.

TAMPA, Fla. – One of three people who were killed this month in Seminole Heights was laid to rest Saturday afternoon.

Anthony Naiboa was fatally shot on Oct. 19.  He was remembered during a viewing and funeral service at Seminole Heights United Methodist Church.

“Anthony was a symbol of determination and inspiration who overcame the greatest obstacles in life," said Casimir Naiboa, Anthony's father.

Anthony just wanted to be treated like everybody else, Naiboa said, despite having autism. He never wanted special treatment in school either.

Last week, after learning the Naiboas were having trouble coming up with the money to pay for their son's funeral, several people in the community stepped up to help coordinate plans with the church.

“When I first agreed to do it, it was just because we would do that for anybody," said Matt Horan, pastor at Seminole Heights United Methodist Church.

"But then getting to know more about who he was, I came to realize what a huge loss this was.”

Someone even donated a burial plot to the family.

Horan said he was hopeful they had collected enough money during the offering to cover the entire funeral expense for the family.

The 20-year-old wasn't even supposed to be in the neighborhood where he was killed, but he had taken the wrong bus that night, police said. He was headed home from working in an area warehouse where he'd been packing up supplies to send to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, Horan said.

Naiboa's death follows two other similar deaths earlier in the month. Edward Mitchell and Monica Hoffa were also killed in Seminole Heights.  At this point, police don't have a suspect or motive.  

On Thursday, police released new video of a person of interest in the shootings. There’s a $35,000 reward being offered in the case.

A day earlier, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, alongside Interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan, detailed the department’s increased presence in the neighborhood and the city’s heightened efforts to clear debris from alleyways and replace burned out streetlights, but provided little new information in the case.

RELATEDStreetlight repairs, cleaning vacant lots aim to improve Seminole Heights safety

“We are dead serious about this, we intend to bring this guy to justice and intend to stay here as long as it takes,” Buckhorn said.

Dugan thanked residents for rallying behind cops and each other. He said officers, both uniformed and undercover, continue to canvas and patrol the area.

Investigators are also revisiting old cases from the area to ensure no potential connections are missed, Dugan said. He said finding closure for the victims’ families is the driving force for his team.

“I think about Benjamin, about Monica and about Anthony,” he said. “Christmas is eight weeks away and these are three families that are going to wake up Christmas morning without their loved ones. That’s not something that should be taken lightly.”

TIMELINE3 murders in Tampa neighborhood, killer at large

Police have cited “circumstances” and proximity of the killings as to why investigators believe the three cases are related, but they’ve stopped short of using the term “serial killer.”

When asked about it Wednesday, Dugan said he still was not comfortable using the term.

“We have purposely avoided that tag because I don’t want people to stereotype, to narrow their search,” he said.

“We don’t have enough information for those type of labels.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-873-TIPS.

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