TAMPA, Fla. – A Tampa dragnet came to an end late Tuesday after police arrested a man who will face murder charges in connection with four killings. The murders terrorized the neighborhood of Seminole Heights and sparked fears of a serial killer.
Tampa Dragnet Leads to Suspect
Howell Donaldson III was arrested at a McDonald’s restaurant in Ybor City, based on a tip given to Tampa police, FOX 13 Tampa reported. Due to their cumulative investigation, he will face murder charges in connection with all four killings, Stephen Hegarty, the Tampa Police Department’s public safety information coordinator, told Fox News.
Moreover, law enforcement authorities believe Donaldson acted alone, Hegarty said.
Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan commented earlier in the day he was “optimistic” that the Ybor City investigation could be connected to the Seminole Heights killings.
“I think when I found out there was a gun and when I found out his description it’s a little more than what we had,” he said at a news conference. ‘I kind of felt we were going to get a break.”
— Ryan Smith (@RyanReports) November 29, 2017
The arrest Tuesday came after an officer was approached by one of Donaldson’s coworkers at McDonald’s about a gun in the workplace, FOX 13 reported. The station, citing the arrest affidavit, reported that Donaldson handed a coworker a McDonald’s bag with a .40 caliber Glock that was loaded. He reportedly told the coworker that he wanted to leave the state.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and ATF analyzed the fired cartridge casings in all four murder scenes, and identified the casings were fired from the same firearm: a Glock .40 caliber handgun, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit pointed out that the killer used a Glock .40 in all four murders. Furthermore, Donaldson agreed to allow authorities to search his car. Subsequently, they found a suspected blood stain on clothing, the affidavit said.
BREAKING NEWS: Chief Dugan announced that Howell Donaldson III will face charges in connection with 4 murders in the Seminole Heights neighborhood. pic.twitter.com/MuqAWLRyN9
— TampaPD (@TampaPD) November 29, 2017
Donaldson had a brief stint at St. John’s University in New York where he was a walk-on player in the 2011-12 season for the Red Storm basketball team, school sources told The New York Post. However, the point guard from Alonso High School in Tampa never played in any games.
A LinkedIn page apparently belonging to Donaldson said he graduated the Queens university in 2015 with a degree in sports management.
Furthermore, the profile also said he worked for the Mets in the 2016 season as a “guest experience host,” scanning tickets for season subscribers and VIPs and operating elevators.
The man now accused of murdering four people had no criminal record in Florida.
‘Goodness Has Won’
“Tonight will be the beginning of when justice will be served,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Tuesday while praising law enforcement for their work in the case.
“You know 51 days ago I said this was a struggle between good and evil, well know, goodness has won,” he said.
Neighborhood on Edge
Residents in working-class Seminole Heights have been on edge since Oct. 9, when 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell was shot to death. Two days later, 32-year-old Monica Hoffa was slain. And on Oct. 19, Anthony Naiboa, 20, was killed after taking the wrong bus home from his new job.
The latest victim to be gunned down was remembered by family and friends Saturday for his passion for helping others. Ronald Felton, 60, was shot dead Nov. 14 as he was walking to volunteer at a food pantry in Seminole Heights.
“If you knew him, you seen his caring service. He was the Superman of service,” one man said at Felton’s memorial service, FOX 13 reported. “I was the supervisor at the food bank, but he was the one in charge.”
Hence, all of the October victims were either getting on or off a city bus, or were at a bus stop when they were shot dead, police said.
We need names, not speculations, to help get this ruthless killer off the streets.
The @crimestopperstb reward for information in the Seminole Heights murders is now up to $100,000. pic.twitter.com/TRjW0W5fPe
— TampaPD (@TampaPD) November 17, 2017
‘Doesn’t Deserve to Walk Amongst Us’
Finally, Mayor Buckhorn previously exhorted officers, “Bring his head to me.” Assuming they have the right man, he received his wish.
“We’re bringing someone to justice who doesn’t deserve the right to walk amongst us. Justice will be served,” said Buckhorn. “And then the process will occur, when this individual rots in hell.”
(Booking photo: Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office)