Video Released of Walmart Shooting Suspect
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has released surveillance video of the man they believe is responsible for committing a hate crime outside a Walmart.
Editor's Note: Yes, this happened in Central Pasco, but we felt it was important enough and had been getting enough attention that it merited a post on New Port Richey Patch, as well.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is looking for the public’s help to identify the man they say is responsible for shooting another in the face with a pellet gun outside Walmart in Lutz early Wednesday morning.
To help in the search, the sheriff’s office has released surveillance video of the man leaving the store. The suspect is described as a white male between the age of 18 and 30 years. He is about 6 feet tall and weighs approximately 180 pounds, according to the sheriff’s office. He has short blond hair and was last seen wearing a brown jacket, blue jeans and green sandals.
"This is a heinous crime," said Sheriff Chris Nocco during a Thursday afternoon press conference related to the incident.
Nocco urged anyone with information about the suspect to contact his office. "Because if the suspect can do this, who knows what's next?"
The shooting took place outside the Walmart on Land O’ Lakes Boulevard in Lutz at 3 a.m. Jan. 2. The incident, which is being classified as a hate crime by the sheriff’s office, unfolded as a man and his girlfriend were walking through the store’s parking lot.
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The suspect began harassing the couple because he believed the man was from the Middle East, a sheriff’s office report said.
As the man and his girlfriend approached their car, the suspect came up to them and made racial slurs about the man being with a white woman, then shot the man in the face with a pellet gun in the cheek area at least twice, Pasco Sheriff's Office Spokesman Doug Tobin said.
Det. Lisa Schoneman, who is investigating the case, said the victim is not of Middle Eastern descent. He's an American with parents from Trinidad.
Schoneman said she has two questions for the suspect: "Why? What were you thinking?"
The nature of the crime has caught the attention of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida. That organization has stepped forward to offer a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for shooting a man in the face with a pellet gun.
“It’s very disturbing someone would attack someone because they perceived them to be Middle Eastern,” explained Hassan Shibly, CAIR-Florida’s Tampa executive director. “We wanted to help bring this person to justice so people don’t have to worry about getting randomly attacked.”
Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 727-844-7711.
New Port Richey Patch editor Alex Tiegen contributed to this report.