SEMINOLE, Fla. (WFLA) – A man who deputies say was randomly shooting people in his Seminole neighborhood is behind bars.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says the circumstances around the shootings remind him of the deadly 2017 Seminole Heights shootings in Tampa.
“This is very much reminiscent of what happened in Seminole Heights,” Gualtieri said. “He was going to go out and randomly kill someone.”
According to deputies, 20-year-old Elijah McCray shot and killed 55-year-old Eddie Lee Hoskins while he was out walking his dog just after 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday evening and then drove back to his nearby home.
The sheriff says McCray also shot a 40-year-old man multiple times on Oct. 7 while he was sitting outside his home in the Bayou Court Apartments. Deputies say that man suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to the hospital for treatment.
When deputies arrested McCray on Thursday, he told investigators he was a “contract assassin who worked for the government,” according to Gualtieri.
The sheriff says he has no doubt that McCray would have attempted another shooting had he not been caught.
WFLA spoke with Jim Bonnell, who says he knew the victim killed Wednesday night. According to Bonnell, Hoskins was an Army veteran who worked for him on and off on his grouper fishing boat.
“He’s somebody that I always trusted,” Bonnell said. “He was just a good guy.”
Bonnell says he’s in disbelief deputies found his friend shot to death.
“This isn’t the wild west,” he said.
8 On Your Side spoke with the victim from the alleged attempted murder last Thursday and his girlfriend. They both asked to not show their faces or share their names.
“He went in the bedroom and got a tourniquet and there was blood all over the place,” the girlfriend said.
After being shot twice, the victim tells us he ran and took cover under his girlfriend’s car as the suspect kept shooting. Three bullet holes are visible in the front of the SUV.
“I’m very grateful that he’s alive,” the girlfriend said. “I’m very grateful, but I’m scared for him.”
According to deputies, McCray has a lengthy juvenile criminal history and should not have been able to have a gun.
“This was a true public safety nightmare that was getting ready to unfold, but thanks to good old-fashioned police work, technology, science and good partnerships and cooperation through information between citizens and law enforcement, a murderer is off the street,” Sheriff Gualtieri said.
When deputies went to execute a search warrant on McCray, the sheriff says they found a 9mm handgun underneath his pillow.
McCray is charged with resisting an officer without violence, attempted first-degree murder and, pending lab tests, will also be charged with first-degree murder and delinquent in possession of a firearm.
Bonnell says he hopes McCray spends a long time behind bars.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “there seems to be a lot of people around that have no regard for human life.”