Lightning players show support for Seminole Heights

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It's been nearly a week since Tampa police arrested the man accused of killing four people in Seminole Heights. Howell Donaldson III is charged with four counts of first-degree murder. The 24-year-old has since waived his right to a bond hearing -- which would have been Tuesday -- and will remain in jail until his trial.

The community once plagued by a serial killer is returning to the place it once was. Monday night, several Seminole Heights businesses, whose profits suffered, had lines out the door, thanks to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Three star players signed autographs, took pictures and let the community know that the Bolts stand with them.

Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and J.T. Brown could've been at home, resting up for Tuesday night's game against the Islanders. Instead, they chose to spend their time supporting the Seminole Heights community and encouraging others to get out and do the same.

Last Monday night, Seminole heights didn't have a lot to smile about. "This was a neighborhood that was terrorized for 51 days," said Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan.

Fast forward one week and, "I'm smiling more, a lot of people are smiling more," Dugan said.

And, the Lightning is gave the community one more reason to smile. "We're here to support them, they're here to support us, it's something that's very special," said Lightning Captain Steven Stamkos.

Stamkos met a long line of fans at Brew Bus. Up the road, Defenseman Victor Hedman took pictures at Fodder & Shine. And, at Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe, Forward J.T. Brown signed autographs with another team captain, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan.

"We want to see everybody smile and that's something that hasn't happened too much for the last month or so but if we can bring smiles and we can come out and help the community heal together, that's something special," Brown said.

"It's a total different atmosphere now that this has taken place. People are moving on but they are sticking together," Dugan said.

Through the toughest days, Brown has been an advocate for Seminole Heights, attending community events and even tweeting a photo of himself wearing a "We Are Seminole Heights" t-shirt to his 25,000 followers, a move that boosted sales which benefit the victims' families.

"You want to give them that sense of the community back and not be living in fear," Brown said.

An autograph from Brown turned Kailee Rodriguez into a lifelong fan. "I'm gonna keep it forever," said the little girl with dreams of playing hockey, herself.

"I think it's great because everyone was afraid of what was happening," said her mother, Cindy Rodriguez. "With the Lightning and them being so good this season, it would bring a lot of people back to the neighborhood."

That's what the team wants. Brown said, "We're all in this together."

"You may not know everybody personally but we are all humans," Brown continued. "We are all here together and we want to help each other out."

People coming out to Monday night's meet-and-greets were not only supporting local businesses, they were also supporting local kids. Fans were encouraged to bring toys with them, that will be donated to under-served elementary-age children in Seminole Heights.