TAMPA — Neighbors in the quiet Temple Terrace, Florida apartment complex where New York City terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov lived said Wednesday morning they were alarmed by reports that a suspected terrorist resided in their midst.
Tatiana Colarte, 19, who has lived at the Heritage at Tampa apartment complex for the past four years, said she recalled little about Saipov, but believed he had a shorter beard when he lived in the cluster of two-story brick buildings.
“The more I see his face on television I recognize him by his eyes. . . . But, other than that, this is a really quiet community, so if he was here, he didn’t really talk to a lot of people,” Colarte said as she stood on the balcony of her apartment.
Her unit overlooks the back of the first-story apartment where Saipov lived, according to public records.
Colarte said she wasn’t sure when Saipov left the complex, but said a woman currently resides in the unit, which has a view of a grassy courtyard and community pool.
“It’s sad. Neighbors are so secluded in their homes that no one knows who one another is anymore,” Colarte said. “To think he could’ve been planning something all along right in front of us. . . . It’s a scary feeling.”
Another resident, an Air Force veteran who has been living in the complex for more than eight years, said he was alarmed upon hearing reports that Saipov lived in the community, but said he never noticed the native of Uzbekistan.
“It’s just an average apartment complex, until last night,” the man said, who did not want his name published.
Signs posted on the leasing office of the apartment complex Wednesday morning said the office was closed but the building’s “corporate office is preparing a news release.”
In the afternoon, the office reopened and a representative for the apartment complex said at the request of law enforcement officials he could not offer details about Saipov’s time living there.
In a written statement, the building’s management said: “We are shocked and deeply saddened by this tragedy and our hearts go out to the individuals and families impacted. Based on our review of rental history for the property, the suspect in question was a former resident. We are fully cooperating with law enforcement to provide any information requested.”
Saipov, according to local news reports, attended the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay. On Wednesday morning, a representative of the mosque said she could not confirm he worshipped at the mosque, located on a sprawling campus near the Heritage apartment complex.
The representative, standing at the entry of the mosque, referred all questions to the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a nonprofit group that advocates on behalf of Muslim-Americans.
Aida R. Mackic, interfaith and youth program director for CAIR-Florida, said the organization has not confirmed which Tampa area mosque Saipov may have attended but would “cooperate” with authorities.
“We absolutely condemn this attack,” Mackic said in a phone interview.