TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The man accused of firing a gun at a family of five Wednesday showed signs of paranoia prior to the shooting, according to Tampa police Chief Mary O’Connor.
Saturday, the Tampa Police Department announced that Christopher Stamat Jr., 21, was arrested in connection to the shooting in the area of Oregon Avenue Wednesday.
Police said the family did not have a home and was sleeping in a vehicle parked across the street from the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex when Stamat allegedly fired over a dozen shots at them from another car.
One of the shots ended up hitting a pregnant mother of three other children in the head, but the injury was not life-threatening, according to police. O’Connor said as of Sunday, the mother was still in the hospital.
The father and the other children — a 9-year-old girl, a 4-year-old boy, and a 3-year-old girl — were not hurt.
The family had recently moved back to Tampa after being away from Florida for several months, but they were living in a rental car because a relative did not have space for them. Tampa police helped find them temporary shelter after the shooting.
“The children are, in fact, in Florida with family but not in Tampa anymore,” O’Connor said.
Using surveillance video from the crime scene, detectives determined that the suspect’s vehicle was a black 300 series 2012 BMW owned by Stamat.
The vehicle was found inside a garage at a home on Marcellus Circle Thursday. O’Connor said the residence where the car was found belonged to the suspect’s girlfriend.
Stamat admitted to being the only person driving his car recently and that he was driving the morning of the shooting, according to police.
Investigators said they found an empty gun box for a 9mm handgun in the car and spent casings inside Stamat’s apartment that matched those found at the crime scene. However, the weapon used in the shooting has not been found.
The chief said the casings have a type of print that allowed police to identify similar guns used in similar crimes in Tampa.
“The shell casings were located in an internal bedroom in his home that has very high technology way for him to get into that bedroom,” O’Connor said. “He actually has a fingerprint ID to get into that bedroom so there’s no doubt that these shell casings belong to him.”
He was then taken into custody.
“Our community as a whole can sleep easier tonight knowing the suspect linked to this monstrous, random act of violence is no longer free to prey on innocent people,” O’Connor said Saturday. “I cannot thank or commend our detectives enough for working so quickly to identify and arrest this suspect.”
Officers said Stamat did not give a motive for the shooting, and there is no established connection between him and the victims at this time. However, Stamat told police he felt people were stalking him in different vehicles, on bicycles, and on foot.
O’Connor said the suspect showed signs of paranoia before the shooting, according to his girlfriend. The chief also said the family had their car windows covered for privacy so he probably didn’t know who was inside the vehicle.
“It really doesn’t matter,” she said. “You take a gun, and you unload it on a family. We can’t really sit back and try to figure out the ‘why’ on that. There’s really zero tolerance for that kind of behavior.”
However, O’Connor said since it appears that the suspect may have thought he was attacking a stalker, it makes her feel better that it was not a random attack on homeless families in the city of Tampa.
Stamat was charged with four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of second-degree attempted murder, and one count of shooting into a vehicle.