TAMPA, Fla. - A possible serial killer struck again in Southeast Seminole Heights Tuesday, killing an innocent man who had been volunteering at a food pantry early in the morning
This latest shooting happened just before 5 a.m. at Caracas Street and Nebraska Avenue. Tampa Police Chief Brian Duga said Ronald Felton, 60, was crossing Nebraska Avenue near Wilder Avenue outside of the church where he volunteers for the early shift at a food kitchen when a gunman came up behind him, shot him, and left him in the street.
Dugan said based on the preliminary investigation, he is comfortable to say this is related to last month's trio of unsolved murders, until new information proves otherwise.
"The vicitms are completely innocent, but they're walking alone. It appears maybe they're distracted, they're looking at a phone, talking to someone on the phone," the chief said. "Whoever is doing this is picking people who are alone and probably distracted because they're able to move in quickly and then escape very quickly."
Police believe Tuesday morning's suspect lives in or near the southeast Seminole Heights area. He is described as a black male, 6' to 6'2" in height, with a thin build, light complexion, dressed in all black, armed with a large black pistol, and wearing a black baseball cap.
A neighbor said he talked with a witness minute after the shooting.
"The man who got shot, [the witness] was talking to him five minutes before he got shot," said Elton Sheppard. "He said, 'I went to the washing machine, I turned around, he was in the street. There was another man in the street with him. I seen the man shoot him. He fell down and he shot him four more times while he was laying on the ground."
Nebraska Avenue was shut down between Hillsborough and Osborne avenues for 11 hours during the investigation. Police were stopped cars leaving the neighborhood.
"We're looking to see who's inside and see who's driving, if there's any passengers, if there's someone hidden out in the truck of it," the chief told FOX 13.
Felton's death is the fourth in a string of murders that started in early October. Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa and Anthony Naiboa were all killed within a few blocks of one another just days apart.
Home surveillance cameras recorded a person of interest who was in the area around the time of Mitchell's death. This time, police are hoping the description of the shooter will help investigators.
"We're still comparing the original video to the person of interest to the description of this person, but we still don't have a lot," Dugan said.
Dugan also asked every gun owner to verify their gun is still inside their home.
"We are going to stay on this until they catch this guy," pledged Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn. "Unfortunately, there will be one more family notified."
Chief Dugan said, after last month's murders, the department had a rapid-response plan in place, and implemented it immediately this morning. Officers were on scene within one minute, he said, and they have since saturated the area, going door-to-door in search of witnesses and surveillance video.
Neighbors were planning to hold a community meeting Tuesday night to try to discuss how to react to the latest murder.