TAMPA, Fla. — After enduring almost two months of fear, a Tampa neighbourhood breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday after authorities announced the arrest of a suspected serial killer, a recent college graduate who 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.”
Neighbours of the 24-year-old — 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 neighbour 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 neighbourhood 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-or-treated. 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.