Tampa, Florida, police said Wednesday that they are confident a 24-year-old man taken into custody on Tuesday is the man wanted in a string of shooting deaths.
“Finally, this morning, we were able to say it was day one of the healing process,” Police Chief Brian Dugan said Wednesday. “That’s a good feeling for us. It’s a happy day. But I can also tell you, it’s the beginning of a lot of work.”
Howell E. Donaldson III was taken into custody in Tampa’s Ybor City on Tuesday after entering the McDonald’s where he worked and asking a fellow employee to watch a bag for him, an affidavit said.
The co-worker approached an officer who happened to be in the restaurant and handed over a McDonald’s food bag that contained a “.40 caliber Glock firearm loaded with SIG brand Smith and Wesson ammunition,” police said. Donaldson was detained when he returned to the McDonald’s.
Dugan said at a news conference that Donaldson admitted to owning the gun but didn’t confess to the four murders and didn’t turn himself in. It was the gun, Dugan said, that linked Donaldson to the four killings.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said that although police are confident they have the right person, “I think it’s important that the process take place.”
“I think at the end of this, if he is found to be guilty, he should die. It’s that simple,” Buckhorn said, adding: “For 51 days, we had a neighborhood that was held hostage.”
Dugan said police aren’t sure what Donaldson’s relationship is with the neighborhood of Seminole Heights, where all four murders took place. Donaldson told police he isn’t familiar with the area and isn’t associated with anyone there, according to a police report.
Dugan said that Donaldson, who was cooperating with police, had been charged with four counts of first-degree murder but that evidence still needed to be collected and that there is a “tremendous” amount of work ahead.
“He was friendly and nice to the cops, but he didn’t tell us why he was doing it,” the police chief said, adding that no confession was given.
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SOURCE: NBC News, Kalhan Rosenblatt