Seminole Heights murders impacting businesses

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The unsolved murders in Seminole Heights are impacting businesses in the community.  Some bars and restaurants in the area say they noticed fewer customers over the weekend, which is usually their busiest time.

At the Old Heights Bistro on North Nebraska Avenue, a woman planning to hold her birthday gathering on their outdoor patio on Saturday canceled her reservation.

According to employees, she said most of her party of 10 said they wouldn't come.

"At least half were not from the neighborhood, so they felt a lot of fear. They didn't want to come through. They didn't want to put themselves in what they imagine is in harms way, said server Natalia Mendez.

A killer still at large, believed to be behind three unsolved murders in Seminole Heights, is what Bistro owner Philip Hutchison believes is causing the slow down in business..

"A lack of people coming out later at night after nine o'clock, eight o'clock," said Hutchison.

Tampa Police are urging residents not to be held hostage by fear. Some neighbors have heeded those words by taking to the streets to rally together against the violence.

"I feel invested in the neighborhood, and I've watched the neighborhood change over time," said Charlie Piatt, who sat alone at the Bistro bar eating breakfast on Monday.

"Life on the streets is what the neighborhood is all about. If people are afraid to go out, then that's going to have a negative impact on the neighborhood."

Mendez said she feels safe seeing a larger police presence in the neighborhood. She still plans to ride her bicycle to work.

"The more people that are out that are a productive part of our community, the better you feel to know you have someone you can turn to if you need something," said Mendez.

The Seminole Heights community is also banding together to help the family of 20-year-old Anthony Naibo, who is the latest shooting victim.

After learning that Naiboa's family did not have money for a funeral and burial, Brian Frey, President of the Hampton Terrace Community Association, reached out to the Seminole Heights United Methodist Church to see if they could help.

"I reached out to Pastor Matt Horan and asked him if they could host the funeral here on Saturday. It was a very quick yes," said Frey.

Frey, who works at a real estate agent, said one of his neighbors stopped by an open house he was hosting on Sunday and offered to provide a grave site for Naiboa. It was a plot the man had previously purchased for himself.

"The humanity that has come from this is overwhelming, but not surprising, because I know this neighborhood," said Frey. "I know where I live, and that we will do anything we possibly can to make this transition in their lives a little easier."

After reading through posts from residents on Facebook, Jessica Weko, general manager at Brio Tuscan Grill in south Tampa, offered to provide food for the Naiboa family.

She it touched her reading what Naiboa planned to do when he got his first paycheck at his new job.
"The family was looking to have a dinner, and Anthony was looking to pay for dinner with his first pay check.

That broke my heart when I saw that. I wanted to reach out and say we can have dinner here. I'd be happy to take care of that for them," said Weko.

She said she's also interested in joining a meal train to provide food for the family during their time of need.

Anthony Naiboa's funeral service will be held at Seminole Heights United Methodist Church on Central Avenue on Saturday from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.