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Florida Man Charged With Shooting Homeless Family Asleep In Car, Hitting Pregnant Mom

Christopher Stamat allegedly fired on a car parked near a recreation center and an elementary school in Tampa in which a pregnant woman, man and their three kids were sleeping.

By Megan Carpentier
7 Statistics About Shootings Incidents in America

A Florida man faces multiple felony charges in a shooting that allegedly targeted a homeless family.

Christopher Stamat Jr., 21, of Tampa is charged with attempted murder in the second degree, four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, shooting "at, within or into" a vehicle and marijuana possession, account to jail records reviewed by Oxygen.com

Tampa Police say that Stamat is the man behind an Oct. 5 shooting in a parking lot across from the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex — which sits along the Hillsborough River in the Old West Tampa neighborhood — that injured a sleeping pregnant woman.

On Tuesday night, a family of five people went to sleep in a rental car at the location — which is also near an elementary school — according to a Tampa Police Department press release. The family, which consists of a man in his 30s, a pregnant woman in her 20s, a 9-year-old girl, a 4-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl, had just moved back to the Tampa area at the beginning of the month, but discovered that a local relative was unable to accommodate them, leading them to utilize their car instead. Court records reviewed by Oxygen.com state that the woman was sleeping in the driver's seat, the man in the passenger seat and the children in the back of the vehicle.

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They had covered the windshield with a sun visor and the windows with T-shirts, according to the Tampa Bay Times, when the man of the family woke up to headlights from another vehicle parked in front of them around 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday and then heard gunshots. He yelled for his family to get down and everyone ducked, as an unknown person fired 12 shots into the vehicle and then sped off.

The car involved in the shooting

“Once the vehicle flees, he realizes his wife is shot,” Tampa police Chief Mary O’Connor said at a Wednesday press conference, according to Tampa NBC affiliate WFLA.

The woman sustained a non-life-threatening gunshot wound to her head and was hospitalized, but the rest of the family was uninjured in the deluge of bullets. As of Sunday, she remained hospitalized.

“As far as we can tell at this point, this may just be a random act of violence,” O’Connor added, noting that there was nothing then to make police believe that the family were specifically targeted.

Investigators initially said that a witness identified a suspect vehicle as a dark, two-door older car, possibly a BMW. At a press conference on Sunday, O'Connor explained that the witness was a tow truck driver who was towing someone out of a nearby apartment complex and saw the car, which is why he could identify the year and model of the vehicle, according to WFLA.

Police were able to obtain surveillance videos from homes and businesses and identified it as a 2-door 300 series 2012 BMW registered to Stamat, O'Connor said.

They found the car on Thursday in the garage of a townhome in South Tampa where Stamat's girlfriend lives — about three miles away from the crime scene — she said.

Stamat allegedly told police he was the only one who had driven the car recently and he had been driving around the neighborhood on Wednesday morning.

Jail records reviewed by Oxygen.com reflect that Stamat lives and was ultimately arrested at an apartment complex two blocks south of the shooting. Court records reflect that the victims' family member who could not put them up lived in the same complex, and the five had been showering and eating at the complex while sleeping in their car. The tow truck driver was towing a car from the complex when he spotted the fleeing vehicle.

O'Connor said that they executed search warrants at Stamat's residence and on his car, finding an unrelated weapon in his car, 9 mm shell casings in his home and a "felony amount of marijuana" in his home. Police arrested him on Friday night for marijuana possession, and he was released on bond around 3:40 p.m. on Saturday, according to jail records reviewed by Oxygen.com.

He was back in jail by 6:00 p.m. on charges related to the shooting, those records state.

"We were able to make the case on the shooting charge yesterday afternoon," O'Connor said on Sunday.

A police handout of Christopher Stamat Jr.

She said that investigators were allegedly able to match the shell casings from the scene of the shooting to ones found inside a bedroom at his apartment — a bedroom, she said, which was secured with a fingerprint lock, despite him being the sole resident of the apartment.

O'Connor said that Stamat immediately requested an attorney and did not provide a motive in the case.

"We do know from his girlfriend that he's been displaying paranoia over the last couple of weeks and thinks people are stalking him," she said. "So we're not sure if that's the motive here or not."

O'Connor added that the two hadn't been dating for very long, and the woman said Stamat told her he thought an ex was stalking him.

O'Connor said that Stamat was previously arrested in Hillsborough County for misdemeanor battery, possession of cocaine and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

Court records reviewed by Oxygen.com reflect that he was arrested in April 2020, but the battery charges were dismissed. He pleaded guilty to the drug charges in October 2021, including one for the possession of drug paraphernalia, and received an adjudicated sentence contingent on 24 months of probation, community service, drug counseling, psychological evaluation and treatment and compliance with parole conditions, including a curfew. (An adjudicated sentence means that his record would be wiped clean if he completed the terms of his probation successfully.)

In May 2022, Stamat filed a pro se motion to discontinue his probation, saying he wished to become a real estate agent for which he needed a clean record. The judge granted the motion in June — seven months into his two-year probation. He would've again been able to legally possess a firearm after that.

Jail records reflect that Stamat was working as a trainer at a local gym at the time of his arrest.

He is currently being held without bond by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

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