TAMPA, Fla. — A police SWAT team and dogs searched a blockaded Florida neighborhood for a possible serial killer Tuesday after a fourth person was shot dead for no apparent reason.
Residents of the Seminole Heights neighborhood reported hearing shots just before 5 a.m. Tuesday. Officers quickly moved in, and found the body of Ronald Felton, 60, who had been walking across the street when a gunman came up behind him and fired, interim Police Chief Brian Dugan said.
“Our officers responded within seconds,” Dugan said, enabling them to quickly set up a perimeter.
“I believe that this person lives in this neighborhood,” Dugan added as he spoke with reporters at the scene. “And we need everyone’s cooperation; we need everyone to pay attention to what’s been going on.”
Dugan said that until his detectives can determine otherwise, Felton’s shooting will be treated as if it’s related to last month’s 10-day spree where three people were slain. The previous three victims were alone and had gotten off a bus in the neighborhood when they were gunned downed at night. None was robbed.
“This has got to stop,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn told a news conference on Tuesday. “We will hunt this person down until we find him.”
Cynthia Murray told The Tampa Bay Times that Felton had been living with her near the shooting scene. She said Felton was an unemployed construction worker who volunteered at the nearby food bank run by a church, which is just feet from where he was shot. She said he would go to the church at 2:30 a.m. to help.
“He didn’t need to come here every week but he loved it,” she said about Felton’s volunteer work. She said Felton and his twin brother Reggie were well known in the area.
“He was the sweetest person, never any problems,” his cousin, Linda Daniels, told the paper.
Police urged Seminole Heights residents to stay inside Tuesday as they searched the area with K-9 units and a SWAT team. They said they are looking for a thin black man, about 6-feet tall, wearing black clothing and carrying a large handgun. They are asking residents to examine video from any security cameras they have.
Hegarty said the suspect couldn’t have “gone very far, and we’re talking to as many people as we can to see what they may have seen.” Seminole Heights is a working-class neighborhood northeast of downtown Tampa that’s slowly becoming gentrified. Run-down homes sit next to renovated, historic bungalows, and trendy restaurants have sprung up near auto body shops.