Gun ties arrested man to series of Tampa killings: police

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Reuters) - A gun owned by a man arrested on charges of murdering four people in Tampa was matched to shell casings found at the crime scenes after a spree that alarmed a city neighborhood, police said on Wednesday.

Howell Donaldson III, 24, was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon at a McDonald's in Tampa where he worked and later charged with four killings that occurred between Oct. 9 to Nov. 14 in the Southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood, police said.

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said at a news conference that Donaldson has admitted to owning the gun but not to the murders. There was no apparent motive in the slayings, Dugan said.

Each victim was fatally shot at night while alone, police said. None of the victims were robbed.

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No lawyer was listed for Donaldson in arrest records. He was being held on four charges of first-degree murder, which can bring the death penalty.

"If he is found to be guilty, he should die. It’s that simple," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at the news conference.

Dugan said Donaldson's arrest would allow residents of the working-class, racially diverse Southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood to rest easier.

"I’m sure we have a lot of people in this community who can sleep now,” Robert Hoffa, an uncle to one of the four victims, said at the news conference.

Donaldson did not live in the neighborhood

Shell casings fired from a .40-caliber handgun were found at each of the four murder scenes, and cell phone records place the suspect in the area, according to an arrest affidavit filed by Tampa police.

Donaldson's first appearance in a Tampa court will be on Thursday morning, said Mike Moore, spokesman for the 13th Judicial Circuit that includes Tampa. He was being held at the Hillsborough County Jail, Dugan said.

Donaldson was apprehended after a co-worker handed a Tampa police officer, who happened to be at the restaurant, a McDonald's food bag containing a handgun that Donaldson later admitted to owning, the arrest affidavit said.

Donaldson had given the bag to the co-worker to hold while he left the restaurant for a short while, Dugan said. Upon his return, he was detained and later arrested, Dugan said.

The victims ranged in age from 20 to 60. One man was shot at a bus stop, another while crossing a street and a third in a driveway of a residence. The only woman victim was killed in an overgrown lot.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Bill Trott)

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