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Suspect in USF area attacks dies in dramatic police shootout

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Published:   |   Updated: September 6, 2013 at 09:44 PM

TAMPA — He sexually assaulted four University of South Florida students. He terrorized a large group of partygoers, forcing them into a bedroom at gunpoint and threatening to shoot them.

He held a woman hostage, then stole her car as the police dragnet tightened around him. He led police on a high-speed car chase, shooting through the back windshield at pursuing officers.

In the end, he died in a hail of bullets in front of a Waffle House on U.S. 301.

“He got his justice,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee. “He terrorized so many people. He was very ruthless.”

Tampa police Chief Jane Castor, whose officers worked in tandem with the sheriff’s office to track down 24-year-old Charlie Christopher Bates, said the scene in front of the restaurant couldn’t have ended any other way.

“There was no choice,” Castor said. “This guy was trying to kill the officers and deputies who were after him. He shot at them repeatedly from a moving car.”

The shootout at 12:30 p.m. Friday ended a massive, 14-hour manhunt for Bates, the man who police said terrorized more than 30 people in the university area and left investigators sifting through four crimes scenes spread out over at least five miles.

“We could not allow him to go any further,” Gee said.

The crime spree attributed to Bates began dramatically.

Eight people _ four women and four men _ had gathered at a home at Cambridge Wood Apartments near USF Thursday night to celebrate the start of the NFL football season, Gee said.

At about 11 p.m., Bates burst into the home, tied up the four men and sexually battered the four women, the sheriff said.

Shanna Hoyt, who lives across the street from the victims, said she was startled awake around midnight by a loud crash, her dog barking and deputies knocking on her door.

When she peered outside, she saw her street bathed in red and blue police lights and heard helicopters buzzing overhead.

“It was overwhelming,” said Hoyt, 29. “It was surreal. It’s like something you would see on ‘Law & Order SVU.’”

The home invasion and sexual assault case grew even more intense as the night, then eventually the day, wore on.

After sexually assaulting the four USF students, Bates ran to nearby Eagles Point Apartments on North 46th Street, where he committed another home invasion, investigators said.

Castor said Bates walked up to a woman sitting outside her front door, forced her into her apartment at gunpoint and intended to rape her. But when the woman pleaded with him not to rape her and said she would pray for him, Castor said, Bates “changed his whole attitude” and left.

Bates, still on foot, then went to The Oaks apartments, across from the complex where the USF students were attacked, and disrupted a party of about 25 people, police said.

He told the group to go into a bedroom, firing at least one round into the carpet. He left and, when he encountered a man who tried to run away, fired at least three shots at him, police said. The man was not hurt.

Then Bates vanished.

For the next 10 hours, there was no sign of him. Sheriff’s deputies, Tampa police officers, Florida Highway Patrol troopers and the U.S. Marshals office searched a 1-mile square area that covered North 42nd Street and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

About a dozen elementary, middle and high schools in the area were placed on modified lockdown. USF officials offered any student terrified by Bates’ rampage to stay in temporary on-campus housing.

Authorities stopped taxis and buses, thinking Bates could have tried to find a ride out of the area. Police dogs scoured nearby woods and swampy areas. Deputies went door to door along the row of apartment complexes on North 42nd Street because Gee and Castor had a hunch that Bates could have hunkered down inside one unit and be holding its occupants hostage.

The theory proved correct.

Bates had indeed taken a woman hostage in an apartment near Florida Hospital, police said.

Shortly before noon on Friday, Bates decided to make a run for it, Castor said.

He stole the woman’s car, drove east on Fowler Avenue, then sped south on U.S. 301 at 80-90 mph, Castor said. Two Tampa police officers in an unmarked squad car noticed Bates, who was easy to identify because of the extensive tattoos on his neck and arms, Castor said.

During the chase, Bates shot at the officers through the rear windshield and out of the driver’s side window of the stolen vehicle.

A law enforcement vehicle eventually forced the red sedan Bates was driving off U.S. 301, authorities said.

The car wound up in the median in front of a Waffle House restaurant and, in a dramatic shootout with officers captured on video by an overhead news helicopter, Bates was fatally wounded, dying about an hour after the shootout, police said.

No law enforcement officials were injured.

“The officers clearly knew they had to bring this to an end,” Castor said.

Tampa police officers are familiar with Bates, the police chief said, because he is a suspect in an Aug. 9 home invasion in the area of Busch Boulevard and Rome Avenue.

Bates also is the suspect in a home invasion last week that took place at 15th Street North and East Comanche Avenue. He entered a house while a couple was sleeping and stole stole credit cards, Castor said. He was seen hours later on surveillance video using one of the cards near Nebraska Avenue.

Records show that Bates, who is from Lakeland, was arrested in March 2009 by Hillsborough deputies on a domestic battery charge. Four months later the charges were dropped. In March of this year, Lakeland police arrested Bates on charges of carrying a concealed weapon, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Prosecutors with the state attorney’s office in Bartow eventually dismissed the weapon charge, determining that Bates did not conceal the weapon but had it legally secured in a back pack. Bates completed a drug diversion program, including random drug screening and attendance at Narcotics Anonymous, said Brian Haas, spokesman for the state attorney’s office. As a result the misdemeanor drug charges were dismissed Aug. 30.

On Friday, Castor said it will take a few weeks to piece together the factors that led to Bates’ crime spree in Tampa.

“It’s going to take awhile to try to dissect his frame of mind,” she said. “Then again, we see cases like this all the time. A suspect gets in so deep committing a series of crimes that there’s just no turning back.”

Tribune reporter Kathy Steele and TBO.com producer Carl Lisciandrello contributed to this report.

rreyes@tampatrib.com

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