Tampa Police Accuse Man of Seminole Heights Murders
By ANNE LINDBERG, TB Reporter
Police received a tip that he was at a McDonald’s restaurant.
TAMPA – A Tampa man has been accused of murdering four people in southeast Seminole Heights since Oct. 9, according to the Tampa Police Department.
Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, 24, of Tampa, has been charged with four counts of premeditated murder in the first degree. The charges arise from the Oct. 9 shooting death of Benjamin Mitchell, 22; the Oct. 11 shooting of Monica Hoffa, 32; the Oct. 19 slaying of Anthony Naiboa, 20; and the Nov. 28 murder of Ronald Felton, 60.
“I assure you. This is the man who did this,” Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan said during a press conference this morning (Nov. 29).
Dugan said later he was “a hundred percent” certain that Donaldson committed the murders.
“A hundred percent. A hundred percent,” the chief said. “We would never arrest anybody unless we though they did it. Especially in a case like this.”
The arrest, which came early this morning, ended 51 days of fear for the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood where the killings happened. Dugan said that, throughout the search for the shooter, officers have been conscious of the passing time and the effect on families and the neighborhood.
“Finally, this morning, we were able to say it was day one of the healing process,” he said.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn also spoke about the toll the killings took on families and the community.
“For 51 days, we had a neighborhood that was held hostage. … All that mattered was that we were going to catch a killer,” Buckhorn said. “Today, the light shines. The darkness is over. This community begins the healing process.”
Since the murder of Mr. Mitchell, police have received thousands of tips. But the most important tip came Tuesday (Nov. 28) afternoon from teh manager of a McDonalds at 2101 E 13th Ave. in Ybor City.
At about 2:38 p.m., the manager approached a Tampa police officer who was in the restaurant and told him that Donaldson, who also worked at the McDonald’s, had give an employee a McDonald’s food bag to keep. He then left the restaurant. The employee looked inside, saw a gun and gave it to the manager.
Inside the bag was a .40 caliber Glock loaded with five rounds of 40-caliber SIG brand Smith and Wesson ammunition. The officer was also told that Donaldson had indicated he planned to leave the state.
“That was the bit of information we were looking for,” Dugan said. “The gun is what we needed. The same gun was used in all four murders. … That firearm was used in all four murders.”
When Donaldson returned to the McDonald’s, officers detained him and he agreed to go to Tampa Police headquarters to provide a statement about the Glock.
Officers said Donaldson gave permission for the gun and ammunition to be examined at the FDLE laboratory. Additionally, he gave officers permission to search his car and cell phone.
They said he also admitted buying the Glock and the ammunition from Shooter’s World, 116 E Fletcher Ave. Police said Donaldson told them that no one else had had control of the gun since he’d bought it. However, he denied knowing anything about the Seminole Heights neighborhood and said he did not know anyone who lives in that area.
“He was friendly and nice to the cops but he didn’t tell us why he was doing it or anything like that,” Dugan said. “He admitted that he owned the gun but he did not admit to the murders.”
*His cell phone showed that he had been in the area of the 1300 block of E Frierson Avenue, an address in Seminole Heights, on the nights of Oct. 9, 11, and 19. Those dates and times coincide with the shootings of Mr. Mitchell, Ms. Hoffa and Mr. Naiboa, officers said.
*Police said they found a hoodie and jacket that appear similar to clothing worn by a man pictured in a video from E Frierson Avenue on Oct. 9. The clothing has a stain that appears to be blood.
*A comparison by the FDLE indicated the cartridge casings fund after the first three murders were fired by Donaldson’s gun. Officers said casings from the last murder, of Mr. Felton, were not available for comparison. However, earlier tests showed that those had been fired by the same weapon used in the first three murders, police said.
*Records indicate that Donaldson bought the Glock on Oct. 3. He then picked it up on Oct. 7, after the mandatory waiting period, and also bought a 20-round box of SIG Smith and Wesson ammunition. The first murder was Oct. 9.
*Officer said that records from AT&T indicated that, within minutes of the Oct. 9, 11, and 19 murders, Donaldson’s phone was “geographically associated” with the AT&T cell tower that provides coverage for all the murder locations.
When confronted with those facts, police said, Donaldson asked for an attorney.
Dugan said police are continuing to investigate. The chief said there has been no decision on what penalty to ask for.
State Attorney Andrew Warren said, ” Our office has been working with law enforcement since the first killing and will continue diligently evaluating and investigating the case as we prepare to bring charges. For the community’s safety, we will be seeking that the defendant be held without bond. We appreciate the community’s trust as we work hard to achieve justice for the victims, their families, and our entire community.”
Warren, who was out of town, said he would have further comments Thursday (Nov 30).
Buckhorn said, “I think at the end of this, if he is found guilty, that he should die. It’s that simple.”
The distribution of reward money is still being determined, police said. The reward money includes contributions by law enforcement agencies, private citizens, and private organizations. There will be a payout, but it likely won’t happen all at once and that will depend on when all the details are in place.
For information about the Tampa police, go to tampagov.net.
Photo of Howell Emanual Donaldson III being booked is screen grab from video courtesy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Tampa Police | Seminole Heights | Crime | Murder | Seminole Heights Murders | Arrests | Tampabay News
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