The terror is over: Tampa police arrested a man on Tuesday in connection with a series of seemingly random murders, marking the end to an almost two-month period for a community living in fear of a potential serial killer.
“For 51 days we had a neighborhood that was held hostage, we had neighbors that were living in fear, we had families that were devastated, we had a community that was on edge,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in a press conference Tuesday morning. “It has been a challenging time for us.”
Nathan Dufresne of the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association said he was relieved with the arrest. “It’ll take some time, but I imagine things will be back to normal soon,” he told VICE News. “No police on the streets this morning, so that’s a start.”
Police have identified the man in custody as Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, 24, who they arrested after receiving a tip that an employee at a local McDonald’s had a loaded gun. Donaldson has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder.
Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said in a press conference on Wednesday that although the suspect did not speak to the motivation behind the murders, the gun found in Donaldson’s possession was the same weapon used in all four murders. Though Dugan said the suspect admitted to owning the gun but not to committing the murders, he told reporters the police are sure they have the right man.
“I assure you, this is the man who did this,” Dugan said.
All four murders were related, but there was no apparent relationship between the victims and no apparent motive. The only thing the victims appeared to have in common is the location where they were killed.
The first victim, Benjamin Mitchell, 22, was killed on October 9 while waiting at a bus stop. The second, Monica Caridad Hoffa, 32, was shot and killed on October 11. The third, Anthony Taino Naiboa, 20, was killed on October 19 a few hundred feet from where the first murder occurred. And the fourth and latest victim, Ronald Felton, 60, was killed in the same neighborhood on October 19.
But before the McDonald’s tip came in, Tampa police were still scrambling. VICE News rode along with the force as they patrolled the streets in search of the suspect of the Seminole Heights murders.
This segment originally aired November 22, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.