Tampa neigh­bor­hood at ease after sus­pect ar­rest

The Columbus Dispatch - - Nation&world - By Tamara Lush

TAMPA, Fla. — After en­dur­ing al­most two months of fear, a Tampa neigh­bor­hood breathed a sigh of re­lief Wed­nes­day after au­thor­i­ties an­nounced the ar­rest of a sus­pected se­rial killer, a re­cent col­lege grad­u­ate who po­lice say gave him­self away after ask­ing a co-worker to hold a bag con­tain­ing a hand­gun.

How­ell Emanuel Don­ald­son, who was work­ing as crew chief at a McDon­ald’s, was charged with four counts of first-de­gree murder in a string of shoot­ings that tar­geted peo­ple near bus stops. “We had a com­mu­nity that was on edge,” Mayor Bob Buck­horn said. “To­day the light shines. The dark­ness is over. This com­mu­nity be­gins the heal­ing process.”

Neigh­bors of the 24-yearold — who lived in a dif­fer­ent area of Tampa than where the slay­ings took place — said they re­cently saw him play­ing bas­ket­ball with his younger brother in the drive­way of the fam­ily’s sub­ur­ban home. Now they’re watch­ing news of him on tele­vi­sion, puz­zled as to how a kid who went to col­lege in New York on a bas­ket­ball schol­ar­ship ended up be­hind bars.

“He’s very nice. He waves, very po­lite,” said neigh­bor Kelly Fabian, who said she walked Don­ald­son to school when he was younger. “Quiet kid. It’s a shocker.”

Ar­rest records did not list an at­tor­ney for Don­ald­son, and the po­lice chief said he did not know if the sus­pect had a lawyer yet. He’s sched­uled to make a first court ap­pear­ance Thurs­day in Hills­bor­ough County.

The ar­rest, which hap­pened Tues­day night, brought im­mense re­lief to the anx­ious neigh­bor­hood of Semi­nole Heights, which had stopped many out­door ac­tiv­i­ties since the first death on Oct. 9. Two more fa­tal shoot­ings hap­pened in the weeks that fol­lowed, and res­i­dents were so scared that po­lice es­corted chil­dren while they trick-or­treated. The fourth killing hap­pened ear­lier this month.

“I think in this sit­u­a­tion it’s a lose-lose no mat­ter how you look at it, ex­cept for a mag­i­cal thing like when a com­mu­nity — or­ga­ni­za­tions, law en­force­ment — come to­gether uni­fied and can put some­body be­hind bars,” said Brit­tany Lott, who said she has not walked her bull­dogs in 51 days, choos­ing to spend time in the back­yard in­stead.

The crack in the case came Tues­day when Don­ald­son brought a bag hold­ing a loaded Glock .40-cal­iber hand­gun to McDon­ald’s and asked a co-worker to hold it while he went across the street, au­thor­i­ties said.

Restau­rant work­ers thought Don­ald­son’s re­quest was odd. When he left, they re­ported the gun to a po­lice of­fi­cer who was do­ing pa­per­work there, set­ting off an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. When he re­turned to the restau­rant, of­fi­cers were wait­ing.

In ad­di­tion to match­ing shell cas­ings found at the shoot­ings, au­thor­i­ties said lo­ca­tion data from Don­ald­son’s cell­phone put him at the scene of at least three of the killings.

“The gun is what we needed,” Po­lice Chief Brian Du­gan said at a news con­fer­ence sur­rounded by fam­ily mem­bers of the vic­tims.

Don­ald­son did not live in the neigh­bor­hood where the shoot­ings oc­curred and told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he was un­fa­mil­iar with it.

Robert Hoffa, the un­cle of vic­tim Mon­ica Hoffa, said he was “over­joyed” when Tampa po­lice called him to say they had made an ar­rest.

“This is about fam­ily. This is about com­mu­nity. This is about ev­ery­body stick­ing to­gether,” he said.

Au­thor­i­ties have not been able to de­ter­mine why Don­ald­son chose the Semi­nole Heights neigh­bor­hood. Although he’s been co­op­er­a­tive and friendly to of­fi­cers, the sus­pect did not shed any light on his mo­tive or why he tar­geted in­di­vid­ual vic­tims, the po­lice chief said.

Don­ald­son grad­u­ated from St. John’s Univer­sity in New York in Jan­uary. He was a walk-on for the men’s bas­ket­ball team dur­ing the 2011-12 sea­son but never played in a game, school spokesman Brian Browne said.

After grad­u­at­ing, he worked in cus­tomer sup­port at the Ul­ti­mate Med­i­cal Acad­emy, a school that trains work­ers for health care jobs. He started there Feb. 13 and worked for about three months be­fore be­ing fired for ab­sen­teeism. The acad­emy said he passed a back­ground check be­fore he was hired.

Po­lice in New York said Don­ald­son was ar­rested in May 2014, but the ar­rest was sealed and no de­tails were avail­able. Au­thor­i­ties planned to re­view cold cases to see if Don­ald­son could be linked to any crimes there.

[GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES/TAMPA BAY TIMES]

Of­fi­cers process pos­si­ble ev­i­dence and a red sports car Tues­day at a McDon­alds in Ybor City in Tampa, Fla. Po­lice de­tained How­ell Emanuel Don­ald­son, 24, a sus­pect in four killings, after a tip that he had a gun at the McDon­ald’s.

Don­ald­son

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