TAMPA, Fla. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Police have arrested a man suspected in four killings in Tampa, Florida who has ties to New York.
Police said Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, 24, would be charged with four counts of first degree murder.
During a news conference Wednesday, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said Donaldson was cooperative with investigators but he did not tell authorities why he was allegedly doing this. The chief says at this point there is “no apparent motive.”
The crack in the case came Tuesday when Donaldson brought a bag with a loaded handgun to his job at a McDonald’s and asked a co-worker to hold it while he went across the street, authorities said.
Restaurant workers thought that was odd and when Donaldson left, they reported the gun to a police officer who was doing paperwork there, setting off an investigation that linked Donaldson to the shootings.
“It’s a sad thing because we had this guy in your kitchen you know? And everybody was spooked by him because he was strange,” said McDonald’s employee Gale Rogers.
Aside from matching shell casings at the shootings, authorities said location data from Donaldson’s cellphone put him at the scene of at least three of the killings.
“The gun is what we needed,” Dugan said.
Dugan said Donaldson admitted that he owned the gun that was turned over to police, but did not admit to the killings.
Police said Donaldson bought the gun legally on Oct. 7 and two days later, the shooting spree in the Seminole Heights neighborhood began.
On Oct. 9, police said 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell was shot to death. Two days later, they said 32-year-old Monica Hoffa, was slain and on Oct. 19, Anthony Naiboa, 20, was killed after taking the wrong bus home from his new job. On Nov. 14, police said 60-year-old Ronald Felton was killed.
All of the October victims were either getting on or off a city bus or were at a bus stop when they were shot, police said.
During the search for the suspect, heavily armed FBI agents knocked on doors looking for answers. Now, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says the exhaustive search has come to an end.
“Today we begin the healing process,” he said. “Today the judicial process starts.”
Donaldson told investigators he was unfamiliar with the Seminole Heights neighborhood where the shootings occurred. He then asked for an attorney, but arrest records don’t list one and the police chief said he didn’t know if he had a lawyer yet. Donaldson is scheduled for a first appearance hearing on Thursday.
According to his social media, Donaldson, nicknamed Trai, is originally from Tampa but attended and may have worked at St. John’s University in Queens.
Donaldson attended the university starting in the fall of 2011 and graduated in January 2017, according to school spokesman Brian Browne. He was a walk-on for the men’s basketball team during the 2011-12 season, but never played in a game, Browne said.
The NYPD says he was arrested in New York City in 2014, but the record of that arrest is sealed.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said police will go back through cold cases to see whether Donaldson could be linked to any crimes.
“We’ve taken that name and started working on our cases as well to see if he’s involved in anything up here,” Boyce said, adding that he would like ballistics results of the gun used in the Tampa killings to see if it matches any unsolved crimes in New York.
Donaldson’s Linkedin profile also claims he worked at the Mets stadium in 2016. CBS2 has reached out to the Mets organization, which replied saying they have no comment.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)