In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Tampa police responded to a shooting and found one man dead in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of the city. The shooting occurred about 4:30 a.m. and police arrived on the scene within minutes. Police called the shooting “suspicious,” and are talking to witnesses in the area.
The body was found in the area of N. Nebraska Avenue and E. McBerry Street. The victim has been identified as 60-year-old Ronald Felton.
Anyone with information about the shootings or about the suspect should call Tampa Police at (813) 231-6130.
Here is what you need to know:
1. The November 14 Shooting Occurred Within Blocks of 3 Other Seminole Heights Shootings, Leading Police to Believe it Was Related to the ‘Serial Killer’
The area where Felton’s body was found is close to where three other murders occurred in Seminole Heights last month. As you can see on the map above, all four deaths happened within blocks of one another.
Police did not immediately say whether or not they believed that the latest shooting was connected to the previous three murders, but said that they are treating it as such until they can prove differently.
Because of the previous killings in this area, there was already a heavy patrol on Tuesday morning. Just after 8 a.m., Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan told the media that the first responding officer was on the scene within one minute of the call coming in.
Police have set up a large perimeter in hopes of finding the suspect. They believe that the person responsible for Felton’s death headed east from the crime scene, likely on foot. Police do feel confident that they acted fast enough to find the person they believe is responsible.
“We want to talk with as many people as we can, we don’t think whoever did this has gone very far at this point,” Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty told the media.
2. Felton Was Attacked from Behind While Walking Across the Street, According to the Tampa Police Chief
During an 8 a.m. press briefing, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said that Felton was crossing the street to meet someone when he was attacked from behind.
“Someone came up from behind and shot him,” Chief Dugan explained.
The suspect was described as a “black male, thin build, dressed in all black, wearing a black baseball cap.” He was seen carrying a “large black pistol.”
Witness Robert Clark was at a nearby laundromat when he heard “five shots” Clark told the Tampa Bay Times that he saw the suspect walking east.
“We will hunt this person down until we find them,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said during a press conference Tuesday morning.
3. Felton Was Heading Out Early to Help Feed the Homeless & His Sister Previously Warned Him to ‘Be Careful’ in Seminole
Felton was described as a good citizen who spent much of his time helping others. A few local news outlets spoke with a woman who said that she knew Felton. She spoke very highly of him, saying that he didn’t bother anyone and that he spent his time giving back to the community.
Felton was known to go a church in the area in the very wee hours of the morning to set up food to help feed the homeless.
“I can’t believe it. Because he don’t (sic) bother nobody. All he does is try to help people all the time … They distribute food every Tuesday and Friday. They always come up here to the church around 2:30, 3:00 to set up,” the woman explained.
His bicycle was found outside of the food pantry.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Felton was an unemployed construction worker. Someone who knew him said that he had a twin brother.
“Anybody who knows Tampa knows the twins and they know if you ask (Ronny) for help he would do whatever you wanted. He didn’t need to come [to the food pantry] every week but he loved it,” the woman told the outlet.
The outlet also spoke with Felton’s sister, Tina, who told them that she previously told her brother to “be careful.”
“I was driving and pulled over. I told him, ‘You know all the mess going on in these areas. I want you to be careful.’ I said, ‘You be careful to keep an eye out for what is going around. We don’t want to have a funeral like these other families.’ He said, ‘Ain’t gonna be me. If anything happens to me, I love ya.'”
4. Police Previously Released a Video of a Possible Suspect in the October Killings
Police in Tampa released this extended video of a person whom they believe knows something about these shootings. Police have been hesitant to call this person a “suspect,” but they do believe that he or she has exhibited suspicious behavior.
Chief Dugan was hesitant to call the suspect a “serial killer” when speaking with the media during a press conference back on October 20.
“We think [the killings] are related, through the proximity and the timeframe. They are related. There is no doubt in our mind about that. We are still sifting through evidence. We can call it what we want. If that brings attention to it, that’s fine,” he said.
5. Benjamin Edward Mitchell, Monica Caridad Hoffa & Anthony Naiboa Were Killed in Seminole Heights Last Month
On Monday, October 9, police identified Benjamin Edward Mitchell as the first victim in this string of murders. Mitchell, 22, was found dead around 9 p.m., while waiting for a HARTline bus on North 15th Street at Frierson Avenue.
Two days later, police say that Monica Caridad Hoffa was killed. Her body was found on Friday, October 13 (two days after police believe she was killed), at the 1000 block of E New Orleans Avenue, about a half mile away from where Mitchell was killed. Authorities believe that the same person was responsible for Hoffa’s death. She was 32 years old.
On Thursday, October 19, Anthony Taino Naiboa, 20, was found dead on N. 15th Street between E Conover Street and E Wilder Avenue. Naiboa’s body was located just a few hundred feet from where Mitchell was killed.