TAMPA - Law enforcement officers shot and wounded a suspected gunman in Tampa after the car he was in crashed during a short high-speed chase.
A gunman, who police have identified as Charlie Christopher Bates, 24, was on the run after a series of home invasions north of USF. Officials said Bates fired shots, raped four women, and forced some 20 people at a football game-watching party into a bedroom.
Early Friday afternoon, deputies found Bates' car parked behind Greco Middle School in Temple Terrace, and shortly thereafter found him in another car.
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.
Deputies believe all of the incidents are connected and random.
McKinnon said the suspect entered an apartment at the Cambridge Woods Apartments on the west side of 42nd St. just north of Fletcher, where eight USF students were inside. The suspect bound the four men inside with duct tape and sexually battered four women.
Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said the same man approached a woman outside her apartment at Eagle Point apartment complex around 11:00 p.m. Thursday. The man forced her inside, and the woman prayed with and for the suspect. After they talked for about 20 minutes, the suspect 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. There, he entered an apartment where some 20+ people were watching football at 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 had already responded to the original incident at Cambridge Woods and heard the gunfire from across the street. They gave chase, but were unable to locate the suspect.
Castor said the suspect, who called himself 'Chris,' is tied to another home invasion in August and is suspected in another on September 3.
Blood matching the suspect's DNA was found after a home invasion on August 9 at a home near Busch Boulevard and Rome Avenue. Bates is suspected of breaking in through a glass door, where he was injured and began to bleed. He forced a woman there into a bedroom and made her disrobe. She began to pray, according to Castor, and he ended up leaving with cash and other valuables.
In another incident on September 3, while a couple was asleep in a bedroom near 93rd St. and Nebraska Avenue, the woman heard a noise and woke her husband. As the man got up to investigate, a black male suspect pistol-whipped him and sexually assaulted the woman. He stole credit cards and cash before leaving.
Deputies with Hillsborough County and Tampa police officers, along with K9 units and aviation, continued to search for the suspect throughout the overnight hours. Taxi companies were notified and at least two cabs were stopped to verify the identity of the passengers.
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 shortly thereafter, however, as of noon Friday, the gunman remained on the loose.
Officials continue to search vehicles and are going door-to-door, with a focus on the many apartment complexes in the area.
USF says that classes today are going on as normal, although there is an increased police presence. Nearby public schools have been placed on modified lockdown.
Detectives and investigators are on scene and are expected to be there throughout the day.