Tampa Police say they will charge a 24-year-old man in connection with four fatal shootings in the city’s Seminole Heights neighborhood.
The neighborhood has been on edge for 51 days, since the first shooting in early October.
The charging documents are still being crafted for Howell Donaldson III, who will face four counts of first-degree murder, said Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan in a late night press briefing Tuesday. But Dugan said police wanted to get the news out to assure the residents of Seminole Heights.
“The real goal is to let the people of Seminole Heights be able to get a good night’s sleep,” he said late Tuesday. “It’s been 51 days that they’ve been terrorized in their neighborhood and it is about letting these families know that we’re going to bring this person to justice, and letting this neighborhood get some rest.”
Dugan said he couldn’t answer many of the reporters’ questions, because the investigation is ongoing.
Earlier in the day, Tampa Police had acted on a tip about a man with a gun at a local McDonald’s in the area around 2:30 p.m. Police had confiscated the weapon and interviewed the person to learn more about the firearm and any possible connection to the killings.
“We’re still trying to figure out this person’s ties to the neighborhood,” Dugan said. “We’re not sure why he was in this neighborhood.”
Donaldson is in police custody, said Eddy Durkin, Tampa Police Department spokesman.
The four seemingly unconnected victims in Seminole Heights were each killed — but not robbed — while walking alone at night within a half-mile area, police said.
- Benjamin Mitchell, 22, a full-time student at Hillsborough Community College, was shot and killed at a bus stop in the Seminole Heights neighborhood October 9.
- Monica Hoffa, 32, a waitress, was shot and killed October 11. Her body was found two days later in a vacant parking lot.
- Anthony Naiboa, 20, who had autism and had just started a temporary job packing relief supplies for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, was shot October 19 when he accidentally got on the wrong bus and ended up in Seminole Heights.
- Ronald Felton, 60, who worked in construction and had three grown children, was shot in the back on November 14.
Officials have said the killings in October and November are connected in their methodology, leading to fears that a serial killer is on the loose. But officials said they are not calling the suspect a serial killer.
In late October, Dugan released blurry video of a “person of interest” wearing a hooded jacket casually walking down a street near one of the killings.
The police chief released new video about two weeks ago showing a similar-looking person with the same gait who was present near the last shooting of Felton. The person in the video, Dugan said then, had become a suspect.
Based on a witness statement, Dugan described the suspect as a black male between 6 feet and 6 feet 2 inches with a thin build and a light complexion. He was wearing all black and a black baseball cap and armed with a large black pistol, police said.
In the past month, police have swarmed the tree-lined neighborhood, advising residents not to go outside alone, to be alert and keep their porch lights on. Dugan said police received more than 5,000 tips.
Dugan thanked Seminole Heights residents, saying they had been “phenomenal in their support of our police department. It’s been their patience and their support in the way they’ve rallied behind the cops of Tampa.”