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TAMPA -- The suspect in a University of South Florida sex assault crime spree has been killed during a shootout with police.
Shortly after noon on Friday, officials were following a red sedan along US 301 just north of I-4.
Gunfire was exchanged as officials followed the suspect's vehicle. Moment later, the suspect's vehicle crashed into the median where the suspect began firing at authorities.
Deputies say the suspect was shot at least once. In an afternoon press conference, Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said the suspect died shortly after the shootout. No law enforcement personnel were injured.
The shootout follows a massive manhunt for a 24-year old armed suspect in New Tampa. All schools in the area have been placed on a "modified lockdown", which means there are classes, but no outdoor activities.
Hillsborough County Sheriff's detectives say Charlie Bates broke into several apartment complexes Thursday night near USF. Bates is also suspected of sexually assaulting four women and firing shots at several people.
The investigation started just after 11 p.m. Thursday when four women showed up at Florida Hospital claiming they had been sexually assaulted by the same man. Hospital staff contacted the Sheriff's Office.
The women told detectives it happened in an apartment in Cambridge Woods, which is north of Fletcher Ave. on 42nd Street. Detectives arrived at the apartment to find four men inside bound with duct tape. Det. Larry McKinnon said they were in the process of freeing themselves when detectives showed up.
McKinnon said a second incident was reported by Tampa Police a few moments later in the Eagle's Point Apartments. Police believe Bates entered a woman's apartment but then fled the scene.
The suspect then ran to The Oaks Apartments, across 42nd St from the original incident at the Cambridge Woods Apartments.
He entered an apartment, where a party was going on, and forced 25 people into a bedroom at gunpoint. The suspect fired at least one round into the ground, according to detectives.
The suspect ran out of the apartment. He followed a male to his apartment and fired a minimum of three rounds without hitting the fleeing male victim. At least one round hit the door.
Bates is described as a 5'9" black male weighing 160-170 pounds with shoulder length dreadlocks that he wears pulled into a ponytail. Officials say Bates has multiple tattoos on his arm and neck.
Bates is a suspect in several other area home invasions.
On August 9, officials believe he reportedly broke into a female victim's home near the Busch Blv and Rome Avenue area. Once inside, he demanded money and jewelry at gunpoint, threatening to sexually assault and kill her, before running from the area.
On September 5, officials believe the victim entered a home through an unlocked door. Once inside, officials said they believe Bates woke up a boyfriend and girlfriend at gunpoint and demanded money, pistol whipped the boyfriend and sexually assaulted the female before leaving.
Later that same day, the suspect reportedly approached a woman on her porch and forced her into her apartment at gunpoint. Officials say the suspect ordered her to undress and began forcibly kissing her. The victim began reciting bible scriptures and prayed for the suspect. The victim told detectives the suspect's demeanor changed, apologized to her and prayed with her before fleeing the scene.
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