Tampa police have arrested the man that they believe is responsible for a string of shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood that left four people dead and terrified residents who feared that a serial killer would remain on the loose.
During a press conference on Tuesday night, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan announced that Howell E. Donaldson III had been arrested on suspicion of committing the murders at the McDonald’s restaurant in Ybor City where he worked, Fox 13 Tampa reported.
Authorities were tipped off about Donaldson when one of his coworkers approached an officer inside the restaurant to report that Donaldson had handed him a .40 caliber Glock inside of a McDonald’s food bag. The suspect also reportedly said that he wanted to leave the state.
An analysis of the shell casings recovered from the scenes of the four murders determined that they were fired from that same firearm, which Donaldson legally purchased from a gun shop in Tampa on October 3 and picked up four days later. His first victim, 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell, was shot dead on October 9.
After being apprehended, Donaldson said that only he had used the gun since it was purchased. He also claimed that he was “unfamiliar with the area identified as the Seminole Heights neighborhood, and he did not have any association with anyone in the area,” an affidavit read.
Donaldson gave police permission to search his vehicle and cellphone. They found clothing that matched clothing worn by a suspect in a surveillance video from the night of the first murder, as well as a suspected blood stain on one article of clothing. They also found location data that placed him near the scenes of the first three murders.
When pressed about the evidence, Donaldson requested an attorney. He faces four counts of first degree murder for the murders of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa, and Ronald Felton.
“Tonight will be the beginning of when justice will be served,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said on Tuesday.