Seminole Heights: Man charged in 4 fatal shootings in Tampa

By: Jason Kelly

Updated:

TAMPA, Fla. - A 24-year-old man was arrested Tuesday in connection with four fatal shootings in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood, the Tampa Police Department said.

Howell Emanuel Donaldson III was detained shortly before 2:45 p.m. Tuesday at an Ybor City McDonald's restaurant, near the Interstate 4-Interstate 275 interchange, where he worked, Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan said.

Donaldson handed a coworker a McDonald's bag containing a loaded .40-caliber Glock pistol and the coworker approached a police officer who was at the restaurant, Dugan said.

Donaldson told the coworker he intended to leave the state and left the restaurant, but he returned and was detained by the police officer, Dugan said.

Police said Donaldson gave officers permission to search his vehicle and his cellphone and to examine his gun, which he legally purchased Oct. 3. He was taken to police headquarters for questioning.

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Watch the Tampa police chief discuss the arrest below:


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Four people have been fatally shot in the Seminole Heights neighborhood since Oct. 9, but detectives haven't determined Donaldson's connection to the area or his motive, Dugan said.

Police said Donaldson was cooperative and admitted to owning the gun, but he didn't admit to the shootings.

"It's like having someone sit on your chest for 51 days, and you're not breathing," said Robert Hoffa, the uncle of victim Monica Hoffa. "And this 52nd day, you took your first breath of air."

Investigators said they found bloody clothes in Donaldson's vehicle and they're testing them for DNA evidence.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn did not mince words when he took the podium during a news conference Wednesday.

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Watch the suspect be booked into jail below:


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"I want the process to take its place," Buckhorn said. "If he is found to be guilty, he should die. It's that simple."

But Tina Felton, the sister of victim Ronald Felton, said she wants the death penalty off the table.

"It's a good day. When they told me they got him, I said, 'Fry in hell,'" she said. "I want him to feel every day what I feel -- the hurt, the pain, the knowing that you have to live the rest of your life locked away."

While investigators haven't determined why the Seminole Heights neighborhood was targeted, Buckhorn said Tuesday that he was glad Donaldson was off the street.

"Tonight, we're bringing someone to justice who doesn't deserve the right to walk amongst us," he said.

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Police said the shootings happened within close proximity of one another, that they didn't involve robberies and that they could be the work of a serial killer.

Police received 5,000 tips in the case, Dugan said. On Wednesday, he praised Donaldson's coworker for reporting the gun to police, and he said the coworker might receive a reward.

Donaldson was booked into the Hillsborough County Jail on four counts of first-degree murder.

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