A man has been arrested in connection with the recent string of homicides in Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood, police announced at a press conference late Tuesday night.
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Chief Brian Dugan identified the suspect as Howell Donaldson III.
“Tonight is the beginning of when justice will be served,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. “And then the process will occur when this individual will rot in hell.
“Tonight we are bringing someone to justice who does not deserve the right to walk among us,” Buckhorn continued.
Donaldson, 24, will be charged with four counts of first-degree murder, police said. Authorities said they still have no motive in the murders, however, and police were unsure of his connection to the Seminole Heights neighborhood.
“Chief Dugan credits arrest in series of Seminole Heights murders to hard work of officers, federal partners, and community members,” the Tampa Police Department tweeted.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott commended the “relentless effort” of the Tampa police, who worked through the Thanksgiving weekend on the case.
“As a father and a grandfather, it is unimaginable what the families of these victims are going through,” Scott said. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with them, and we will work to ensure that they receive the justice they deserve. In Florida, we have absolutely zero tolerance for this type of evil behavior and anyone responsible will be held to the fullest extent of the law.”
Tampa police earlier in the day had said they were “optimistic” that a tip that led them to a McDonald’s to investigate a person with a gun was connected to the deaths.
Police responded to the McDonald’s in Ybor City at 2:45 p.m. after receiving the tip and confronted the person who had the gun, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said in a press conference. They interviewed the individual at police headquarters, but Dugan reminded reporters at the time that he or she could have been “completely innocent.”
“We’ll see what type of answers this person has for us,” Dugan said.
Aerial footage from above the McDonald’s showed officers gathering near police tape surrounding the parking lot.
When asked by a reporter whether he believed Tuesday’s investigation was related to the Seminole Heights killings, Dugan responded, “Yes, I believe this has to do with Seminole Heights.”
“I’m optimistic on this one, but only time will tell,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
Police recovered a gun from the individual, but it is not clear if that gun is connected to the killings, Dugan said.
Police had said they would have a presence in the neighborhood Tuesday night, Dugan said, urging that people still use caution.
There were more than 5,000 tips made to the Tampa police in the case, authorities said at Tuesday night’s press conference.
Three people were shot and killed between Oct. 9 and Oct. 19, and a fourth person, 60-year-old Ronald Felton, was killed in the early morning hours of Nov. 14.
After Felton’s death, police released surveillance video of a man taken right before Felton was killed, which appears to show the same person seen in surveillance video taken on Oct. 9 right after the first victim, 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell, was killed, police said.
A reward for information leading to an arrest was raised to $100,000 days after Felton was killed.