Report gives new details in shooting death of University of Tampa student
By Matt Cohen,2023-06-06
An investigative report from the Tampa Police Department says the man who killed 19-year-old Carson Senfield in September gave him CPR on the road after shooting him, among other new details.
After getting home from the South Howard Avenue bars where he celebrated his 19th birthday, Senfield opened the door of an unfamiliar car outside his house. An attorney for the Senfield family, Ralph Fernandez, said the teen’s family believes the teen mistook the vehicle for an Uber that would take him back to the bars.
When Senfield got into the car, the driver shot him out of fear for his life, Tampa police said. According to the new report obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, the driver said Senfield “pointed something at him and he thought it was a gun.”
According to the report, the shooter’s girlfriend was in the car with him at the time of the shooting. She told detectives the man “always has his gun with him.”
She also told detectives she was scared and that the way the person came into the car and didn’t say anything concerned her, the report said.
The shooter, whose name is redacted in the report, will not face charges related to Senfield’s death, according to authorities. In a letter to Tampa police, Hillsborough State Attorney Susan Lopez cited the Florida law commonly known as stand your ground in her decision to not file charges.
The report states that Senfield’s roommates, who were at the bars with him, sent the teen home in an Uber because “he was not acting right.” Tampa police interviewed the Uber driver, who said he picked up Senfield outside Soho Saloon at 12:41 a.m., and Senfield’s “more sober” friend helped the teen get into the car.
“Text me when you get home,” the friend said to Senfield as he got into the car, according to the report, which said it was a 14-minute ride from the bar to the teen’s home in the 1000 block of West Arch Street.
Upon arriving, Senfield didn’t recognize his house and initially refused to get out of the car, according to the report. After Senfield changed his mind, the driver said he stayed to watch the teen walk up to the house and knock on the door. The report says the driver thought he saw Senfield talking to someone, so he drove away.
At 1:18 a.m., one of Senfield’s roommates called him and said Senfield answered but didn’t say anything, the report said. After 18 seconds, Senfield hung up.
The shooting happened about two minutes later. Officers were dispatched to the scene at about 1:20 a.m. The shooter stayed at the scene and cooperated with authorities, according to the report.
A witness told investigators he was driving past the scene, dropping off a friend from work, when he saw Senfield open the back door of the shooter’s car. He also told authorities he believed Senfield was “drunk or high,” the report said.
Officers later spoke to the shooter’s mother, who lives near where Senfield was shot. She said she was sleeping when she woke up to a loud “pop” noise. She then heard her son at her front door and, as she rushed to the door, she said she asked him if he was all right. At first, she thought her son had been shot, the report states.
“No I’m not alright mom,” he responded.
The shooter had a valid concealed weapons permit, according to his mother. She told authorities that when their neighborhood “started getting bad...everybody started carrying.”
Tampa police did not respond to multiple requests from the Times to confirm whether the shooter did have a valid permit.
The shooter’s mother told officials she opened the front door to see her son performing CPR on someone lying in the street. According to the report, witnesses also said they saw him giving Senfield CPR until first responders arrived.
The report states authorities also gave Senfield CPR when they arrived at the scene. Tampa Fire Rescue pronounced him dead at 1:33 a.m.
An autopsy showed Senfield had cocaine and alcohol in his body when he was shot. His blood alcohol content is listed at 0.29, nearly four times the legal limit in Florida.
Fernandez previously told the Times he believed Senfield got an Uber to go back to the bars because he did not have a key to get in the house. In the report, detectives say Fernandez also told them his theory in meetings with Tampa police during the investigation. However, the report says crime scene photos showed Senfield had a house key with him.
In a phone call with the Times, Fernandez claims the photos mentioned in the investigation report were not provided to him and he said he was not made aware before he got the report that Senfield had his key.
Fernandez acknowledged Senfield was drunk the night of the shooting, but he said he still thinks Tampa police mishandled the investigation.
Fernandez’s largest complaint about the investigation report is that it doesn’t discuss the shooter’s 911 call. He said by asking the caller if he was being carjacked, the dispatcher created a circumstance where the shooter could claim he was standing his ground.
Fernandez provided the Times with an audio recording of the call.
Click here to listen to the complete 911 call or press the play button below. A partial transcript follows.
“Tampa police 911, what is the location of the emergency?”
“Hey, this dude just tried to come in, come in our car. I had to shoot, I had...,” the caller said.
“What is the address,” the dispatcher said.
“[redacted] West Arch Street,” the caller said.
“What happened?” the dispatcher asked.
“Oh, dude. This dude, he just, I just got in the car with my girlfriend and this dude just tried to come in the car behind us,” the caller said.
“OK, is he — is he hurt? What’s going on?” the dispatcher asked.
“Yes. He opened up our door. And I don’t know if he had a gun, he had ...,” the caller said.
“OK, so was he trying to carjack you?” the dispatcher asked
“Yes, it seems like it. I was just, we — like in the front of my house, and he opened the back door. Could you all hurry up, please,” the caller said.
“Yes. I already sent the call down, so we’ll get officers out there as soon as we can, OK,” the dispatcher said.
“Yes ma’am,” the caller said.
Fernandez said he plans to continue pushing to have charges filed against the shooter.