Tampa residents are relieved after police arrested 24-year-old Howell E. Donaldson III in connection with four shooting deaths that terrorized one Tampa neighborhood.
Donaldson was detained Tuesday at a McDonald's in Tampa's Ybor City neighborhood after an employee called in a tip about a man with a gun.
Police nabbed Donaldson during one of the largest manhunts Tampa has ever seen. Multiple law enforcement agencies joined in the manhunt.
"Tonight, goodness has won," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told reporters at a press conference. "Tonight in the battle between darkness and light, light has won."
The Tampa resident is a suspect in the random shooting deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, 22, who was killed while waiting for a bus on Oct. 9; Monica Hoffa, 32, who was found dead in a vacant lot on Oct. 13; and Anthony Naiboa, 20, who was killed while walking on Oct. 19.
After the first three murders were linked to a suspected serial killer, police took to radio, TV and social media, asking the public to report any suspicious activity. Officials released still images and surveillance video of a lone male seen fleeing on foot from an area where the body of Ronald Felton, 60, was found Nov. 14 near the site of a memorial for the three other victims.
All four victims were killed in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood.
At a press conference on Tuesday Police Chief Bryan Dugan explained that a tip called in by a curious McDonald's employee led to Donaldson's capture.
Peabo Johnson was working the grill area at a McDonald's when a male walked in carrying a black book bag. The man asked her to hold the bag for him while he went to cash a check, according to NBC affiliate WFLA.
The man told Johnson not to look inside the bag but she looked anyway, Johnson said. That's when she noticed a gun and called police, who swarmed Donaldson and tackled him to the floor.
Police Chief Dugan did not say whether Donaldson's firearm matched bullets taken from the victims.
Angelique DuPree, Mitchell's cousin, said the arrest brings closure "for us, but more so for the city itself, because it's been on pins and needles."
"Even if it's not the guy, just to know they got somebody with a gun off the street is a good thing," DuPree said.