The trail is getting hotter for a possible serial killer. New surveillance video released by Tampa Police Department shows a man now declared as a suspect in the random killings of four people in the city’s Seminole Heights neighborhood.
The four victims, none of whom knew each other, all shot and killed in the dark night or early morning hours during the past four weeks.
"Some crazy person, some crazy person, that is all you can explain, some crazy person, because, why? They are just targeting innocent people and shooting them. Who in their right mind would do such a thing?” said one neighborhood resident, echoing the worried thoughts of many.
Thursday at 4:51 a.m., as 60-year-old Ronnie Felton walked to a local church where he worked at a food kitchen to feed the poor, he was ambushed, according to police. He was shot five times and left to die in the street.
Not long before that, security cameras in the neighborhood captured the suspect walking alone, in video that looks very similar to surveillance footage of a man walking through the same neighborhood Oct. 9, right before 22-year-old college student Benjamin Mitchel was shot and killed.
The suspect’s description: Black male, tall, thin build, wearing a dark hoodie or rain jacket. He has a steady gait and a way of flipping his cellphone when he pulls it out of his pocket to look at it.
Tampa’s police chief believes this suspect lives in Seminole Heights and is urging all residents to watch the videos.
“I want people to look at that video and look at how that person walks,” says Chief Brian Dugan. “It’s clear to me that this person is able to flip a switch and go off and murder someone.”
The chief is hesitant to call this the case of a serial killer, saying his detectives are still not 100 percent confident all four killings are connected. But they are treating it as if they are hunting for a serial killer, who just may strike again.
“The reward is now totaled at $91,000,” Dugan said. “Let’s hope this motivates someone with the strength and fortitude to step forward and tell us who is doing this.”
Police and the FBI have been canvassing the neighborhood for days, knocking on every door, searching houses and looking for anyone who looks similar to the man in the videos.
They’re also digging into every person recently released from prison, from jail and from a hospital after being “Baker Acted,” which is when a violent person is held in a hospital for a time, until doctors determine that person is no longer a danger to themselves.
Police are also urging every Seminole Heights resident in this working class neighborhood on the north side of the city to leave their front porch light on every night, from 6 p.m. to 6 am.
And everyone just hopes this suspect is caught, before what everyone fears will happens: A fifth victim.