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Thursday, Aug 21, 2014

USF campus returns to normal pace after rampage

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Published:   |   Updated: September 7, 2013 at 06:16 PM

TAMPA — Calvin Clarke was studying statistics at the University of South Florida's Marshall Student Center on Saturday, pausing briefly to joke around with a fellow classmate.

A day earlier he didn't even want to step out of his dorm after receiving a text alert from the university that told students: “Unsafe situation on campus.”

“It was nerve wracking,” the sophomore said. “I locked the windows and checked if I locked the doors.”

Clarke, 19, was referring to the anxiety brought on by Charlie Christopher Bates, a 24-year-old Lakeland resident who police said raped four USF students in an apartment complex near campus and terrorized more than 30 other people Friday during a 14-hour crime spree.

Bates was mortally wounded by police officers after a high-speed chase along U.S. 301. He died at a hospital at 1:21 p.m. Friday.

The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office will conduct an autopsy to determine how many times Bates was shot, said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

The police department, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating the shooting to see how many times officers fired their weapons.

The officers involved in Bates' shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation, which is standard procedure.

Police said Bates was at the center of seemingly random, but connected, crimes that started at 11 p.m. Thursday. He entered a residence at Cambridge Woods Apartments, where four women and four men, all USF students, were celebrating the start of the NFL football season.

Bates tied up the men and sexually assaulted the women, authorities said. He then went to another complex nearby, approached a woman sitting on her porch and forced her inside her apartment at gunpoint, investigators said.

He told the woman he was going to rape her, but she began to pray, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said. The woman prayed for Bates and with him, Castor said, and that unexpected act made Bates change his mind.

He left the woman unharmed but walked to The Oaks apartments, across the street from Cambridge Woods, where he barged into a party of about 25 people and threatened to shoot them. He forced the group into a bedroom and fired at least one round into the floor before leaving.

Claudia Seijo, a Hillsborough Community College student, posted on her Facebook page that the group was celebrating her birthday when Bates walked into the apartment.

“I got held at gunpoint inside my apartment with all my friends,” Seijo wrote. “Now all the cops are over here. Gun shot went off in the room with all of us. It was crazy. Worst birthday ever.”

Clarke, the USF sophomore, and his friend, Caitlyn Nugent, said they were shocked when they learned of the scope of Bates' crimes and how it all came to an end in a shootout on U.S. 301.

But the dominant mood Friday on campus was one of curiosity, not fear, they said. It was a normal day, said Nugent, 19, as students went to class and the university remained open.

USF police Lt. Chris Daniel said it was business as usual on Friday, even when the manhunt for Bates was ongoing. University officials made crisis counselors available and found temporary on-campus housing for students who lived off-campus and felt unsafe.

“But today, it's entirely normal,” Nugent said Saturday.

She said what will stand out in her mind about Bates' rampage is how, amid the chaos, one of his victims had the courage to pray in front of the gunman.

“That was such a terrifying situation,” Nugent said. “I'd say she really has such a strong faith. It showed a lot of trust in God and it worked for her. I think that's wonderful.”

rreyes@tampatrib.com

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