Police hunt house by house for killer after fourth slaying in 10-day stretch
TAMPA, FLA. | Tampa police blockaded a neighborhood 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 neighborhood 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,” Chief 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 neighborhood,” Chief Dugan told reporters at the scene. “And we need everyone’s cooperation. We need everyone to pay attention to what’s been going on.”
Chief Dugan said that until his detectives can determine otherwise, Mr. Felton’s shooting will be treated as if it’s related to last month’s 10-day spree in which three people were slain. The previous three victims were alone and had gotten off a bus in the neighborhood when they were gunned downed at night. None was robbed.
“This has got to stop,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Tuesday at a news conference. “We will hunt this person down until we find him.”
Cynthia Murray told the Tampa Bay Times that Mr. Felton had been living with her near the shooting scene. She said Mr. 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,” Ms. Murray said about Mr. Felton’s volunteer work, adding that he 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.
Chief 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 neighborhood 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.
Robert Clark told the Tampa Bay Times that he was in a nearby laundromat with his girlfriend when he heard five shots, turned and saw a man run past. He said he went outside and saw Mr. Felton’s body.
After the earlier shootings, police increased patrols in the neighborhood and released surveillance videos of a hooded suspect. In a security video taken moments after Benjamin Mitchell, 22, became the first victim on Oct. 9, the suspect is running from the scene.
Two days after Mitchell was shot, Monica Hoffa, 32, was gunned down. On Oct. 19 Anthony Naiboa, 20, was shot after taking the wrong bus home from his new job. Police patrolling nearby heard the gunshots and rushed to the scene to find Naiboa dead.
Law enforcement cordoned off part of the Seminole Heights area of Tampa, Florida, after one person was shot dead in what police say may be the work of a serial killer.