Residents of the Tampa-area neighborhood of Seminole Heights are breathing a sigh of relief after police announced they have arrested the suspected serial killer who has been targeting pedestrians seemingly at random.
According to a report from the Tampa Bay Times, police linked four victims who were gunned down in the quiet neighborhood to Howell Emanuel Donaldson. Police were able to connect the shootings to Donaldson after he brought a bag containing a .40-caliber Glock to the McDonald’s he had been employed at and asked a coworker to hold it for him. Coworkers of Donaldson found the request strange and once Donaldson left the restaurant they reported the situation to an officer who happened to be there filling out paperwork. Donaldson was taken into police custody when he returned to the fast-food chain.
In addition to the gun, which was a match to the shell casings found at the scenes of the shootings, police say cellphone data placed Donaldson in the Seminole Heights area on the same dates and times three of the slayings occurred. The gun was turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for further analysis. At this time officers say that they are “100 percent” certain they found their man.
According to investigators, Donaldson has not admitted to the murders and told officers he had no connection to the Seminole Heights neighborhood where the shootings took place.
“We were really hoping to find out what was driving him to do this,” Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said during a press conference. “We don’t have those answers yet. It’s an ongoing investigation. We’re going to speak to a lot of people now that we know who did this, we’re going to have a lot more tips, a lot more information.”
Residents of Seminole Heights have refrained from outdoor activities and have been cautious going out at night since the first murder took place on October 9, 2017. ABC News reports that area residents were so fearful of the unknown gunman that police stood watch to make sure children were safe during the city’s annual trick-or-treat.
“We had a community that was on edge,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn told ABC News. “Today the light shines. The darkness is over. This community begins the healing process.”
Donaldson is currently facing four counts of first-degree murder. Police say at this time they have no reason to believe that the shooting victims were connected to Donaldson and believe that he chose his victims at random.