The intense investigation of a violently-oriented crime spree yesterday wound up in the death of the suspect, Charlie Christopher Bates, 24, as he and a throng of law enforcement officers from several Tampa Bay area agencies exchanged gunfire after a vehicle pursuit.
Commencing with initial reports from four victims of sexual battery, each instance occurring on or near the University of South Florida campus in Tampa, Fla., USF police officers conveyed a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) to surrounding Tampa Bay area law enforcement departments. Both the Tampa Police Department and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office took heed.
Each of the four aforementioned sexual assault victims presented at Florida Hospital, directly across the street from the USF campus, at which time medical personnel suspected each of the victims' descriptions of the assailant matched. Hospital staff contacted law enforcement authorities.
The USF-originated BOLO would only be the beginning of what would eventually develop into a sordid, culmination of several more criminal deeds perpetrated by Bates. Law enforcement authorities, working together, started putting all the broken pieces together.
Given a season-originating football game broadcast on television, many students and civilians alike were huddled in dorms and college campus apartments, tuned in to the football game. Some of these crime scenes were in the jurisdiction of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
One of the incidents involving Bates centered around him entering an apartment containing 25 men, all of whom were watching the football game. Bates reportedly made each of the 25 males relocate to an adjoining room, away from where they were congregated, effectively tallying 25 felony counts of false imprisonment. In this particular incident, Bates displayed his willingness to use violence, discharging his firearm into the floor, witnessed by the group of 25 hostages.
Several of the criminal events perpetrated by Bates were in the New Tampa community, located in the jurisdiction of the Tampa Police Department.
Bates reportedly took full advantage and, in a purportedly drug-induced state, brandished a firearm at each of several locations where he unlawfully entered residences. In each circumstance, Bates reportedly waved his firearm, let loose several shots, held many against their will, and sexually battered at least four females.
Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said he suspects more potential victims may be out there, perhaps even gagged and bound.
In one of the incidents, Bates informed a female sexual assault victim that he was afraid the police may discover that he had killed another woman, although he held back any finite details.
With the BOLO issued earlier by USF police authorities, and area law enforcement departments aware of this violent individual on the loose, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy on patrol spotted Bates in a reddish-colored automobile. In proximity to the main entrance of the University of South Florida on Fowler Avenue in Tampa, the HCSO deputy in a police cruiser followed Bates eastbound towards Interstate 75.
Back-up law enforcement personnel was summoned as the HCSO deputy maintained a visual of Bates as he drove east towards the interstate.
It is believed that Bates became aware he was being followed by law enforcement and, as other deputies and police officers raced to the area in question, Bates decided to unleash a volley of gunfire.
Through his rear windshield, Bates opened fire upon deputies. The exchange of gunfire was the epitome' of how recklessly violent and desperate Bates had evolved. The police pursuit commenced as it wended through Temple Terrace, a small suburban enclave neighboring the jurisdictions of USFPD, Tampa PD, and the HCSO.
Fearing Bates was attempting to get onto I-75 and amidst a vast populace of the motoring public, law enforcement encroached closer to Bates' car in efforts to "PIT" him from the roadway in hopes of immobilizing his vehicle.
The "PIT" (Pursuit Immobilization Technique) maneuver is a motor vehicle operations technique whereby law enforcement is trained to contact the rear quarter panel of a suspect's car with the front quarter panel of a police vehicle, in efforts to cause the pursued vehicle to spin out of control, thus negating any further escape.
The lead car among the myriad police cruisers chasing Bates implemented the PIT maneuver and, in the second attempt, succeeded in bringing him to a halted position after a lengthy slide onto a grassy shoulder of the roadway. The final resting place was in proximity to the grounds of a hotel, closely approximate to the entrance ramp to Interstate 4 which it is believed was Bates' focus.
The fear of having Bates motoring among hundreds more vehicles was abated by the PIT maneuver.
Unfortunately, Bates' violent and desperate tendencies were undeterred. Bates continued opening fire upon the lead and subsequent law enforcement cruisers involved in the pursuit.
The lead car, occupied and shared by a HCSO law enforcement deputy and a Tampa cop, conducted the PIT maneuver. Once movement ceased, Bates opened fire through his front windshield. Law enforcement officers returned fire through their front windshield, given the positioning was based on their respective cars nose-to-nose, not an ideal position for a gun battle.
The two officers in the lead-pursuing law enforcement vehicle took heavy fire from Bates. Fortunately, these two law enforcement officers happened to be in constructive possession a ballistic shield in their cruiser's compartment. They wisely used the shield to cover their windshield from Bates' barrage of gunfire. Tactically, the shield potentially saved the lives of these two cops.
Subsequently, the deputy operating their cruiser exited, maintained cover behind his vehicle, and joined the other officer on the cruiser's passenger side; both advanced, holding the ballistic shield for them both as they approached Bates' vehicle, their firearms drawn out to the side of the ballistic device.
Once close enough and aided by the ballistic shield, it was determined Bates was shot and unconscious.
A phalanx of other law enforcement officers then surrounded Bates' car, ultimately determining that no one else occupied his vehicle.
Bates was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
In the aftermath of the police pursuit and shootout with Bates, police authorities discovered in his vehicle a cell phone which was believed to be the property of a female, possibly the aforementioned murder victim to whom he referred earlier. Police authorities are still in search of the cell phone owner's whereabouts, fearing another potential victim is yet to be discovered.
Press conferences held throughout yesterday afternoon and evening, each orated by Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee and Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, indicated the seeming perfection in the way all involved law enforcement agencies interacted. Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor indicated the crux of a tightly-knit law enforcement effort to put an end to Bates' criminal enterprise and spree of violence stemmed from each department's ability to communicate on the same police frequency, working cooperatively and utilizing vastly similar police training.
Chief Castor stipulated that, if not for the radio enhancements brought about by federal dollars allocated for the recent Republican National Convention in August 2012, these departments would have had a dilemma in communications, an imperative asset among law enforcement operations.
How was Bates identified so quickly? Local law enforcement forensics staff collected fingerprints at one of the sexual assault crime scenes and swiftly researched those prints for results. Given Bates' criminal history, a "hit" returned with Bates' identity, allowing law enforcement authorities to commence apprehension efforts to place their suspect in custody.
According to Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, Bates was increasingly demonstrative of the willingness to use violence, his firearm, and propensity to wreak havoc upon citizens wherever he traversed. "That is always a concern for law enforcement," said Chief Castor.
Equally so, Hillsborough County Sheriff Gee stated that he and his deputies, assisted by other police agencies, worked cooperatively. Sheriff Gee cited the dire need to apprehend Bates given that "he was on a tear" regarding his violence tendencies and criminal activities.
Ultimately, it appears Bates was a suspect in several violent encounters in the vicinity of the USF campus, involving gun-toting break-ins, sexual assaults, and the seeming willingness to fire his weapon. Police reports indicate several crimes were probably attributable to Bates criminal activities dating back to August 09, 2013.
Albeit focused on apprehending Bates and bringing him to justice, Bates opted to fire it out with law enforcement officers, resulting in his death.
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