Police hunt house-by-house for possible serial killer
Tampa police blockaded a neighbourhood and searched with a SWAT team and dogs for a possible serial killer Tuesday after a fourth person was shot dead for no apparent reason.
Residents of the Seminole Heights neighbourhood reported hearing shots just before 5 a.m. Tuesday. Officers quickly moved in, and found the body of Ronald Felton, 60, who had been walking across the street when a gunman came up behind him and fired, interim Police Chief Brian Dugan said.
“Our officers responded within seconds,” Dugan said, noting that enabled officers to quickly set up a perimeter around a roughly square-mile area. SWAT officers assisted by agents from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives could be seen patrolling the streets with rifles as they moved through yards and banged on doors.
“I believe that this person lives in this neighbourhood,” Dugan added as he spoke with reporters at the scene. “And we need everyone’s co-operation; we need everyone to pay attention to what’s been going on.”
Dugan said that until his detectives can determine otherwise, Felton’s shooting will be treated as if it’s related to last month’s 10-day spree where three people were slain. The previous three victims were alone and had gotten off a bus in the neighbourhood when they were gunned downed at night. None was robbed.
“This has got to stop,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn told a news conference on Tuesday. “We will hunt this person down until we find him.”
Cynthia Murray told The Tampa Bay Times that Felton had been living with her near the shooting scene. She said Felton was an unemployed construction worker who volunteered Tuesdays and Fridays at the nearby food bank run by a church, which is close to where he was shot. She said he would go to the church at 2:30 a.m. to help.
“He didn’t need to come here every week but he loved it,” she said about Felton’s volunteer work. She said Felton and his twin brother, Reggie, were well known in the area.
“He was the sweetest person, never any problems,” his cousin, Linda Daniels, told the newspaper.
Dugan urged Seminole Heights residents to stay inside and prepare to share with police any potential detail that might be useful as the SWAT team and police dogs cleared properties. Police said the suspect is a thin black man, about 6-feet tall, wearing black clothing and carrying a large handgun. They are asking residents to examine video from any security cameras they have.
Seminole Heights is a working-class neighbourhood northeast of downtown Tampa that’s slowly becoming gentrified. Run-down homes sit next to renovated, historic bungalows, and trendy restaurants have sprung up near auto body shops. Officers were at every street corner around the perimeter, questioning anyone trying to leave.
Law enforcement agents investigate a fatal shooting in the Seminole Heights neighbourhood in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday.