TAMPA (CBSMiami/CNN) – Tampa Police announced late Tuesday night they have arrested a 24-year-old man in connection with four fatal shootings in the city’s Seminole Heights neighborhood.
Howell Donaldson III is being charged with four counts of first-degree murder.
Police had stopped him at a McDonald’s earlier in the day after getting a tip of a man with a gun.
Officers took Donaldson to police headquarters, where they began to question him. At the time, police were quick to say he was not under arrest or even considered to be in custody.
“We’ve received more than 5,000 tips. This person might be completely innocent. We have to be very careful what we release. I’m optimistic on this, but only time will tell,” Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said.
Police wouldn’t elaborate about why they thought there was a connection to the killings.
“I believe this has to do with Seminole Heights,” Dugan said.
The four seemingly unconnected victims were separated by age, race and occupation, and each was killed — but not robbed — while walking alone at night within a half-mile area, police said.
Officials have said the killings in October and November are connected in their methodology, leading to fears that a serial killer is on the loose. But officials have said they are not calling the suspect a serial killer.
In late October, Dugan released blurry video of a “person of interest” wearing a hooded jacket casually walking down a street near one of the killings.
The police chief released new video about two weeks ago showing a similar-looking person with the same gait who was present near the last homicide, 60-year-old Ronald Felton, who was shot in the back on November 14. The person in the video, Dugan said then, had become a suspect.
Based on a witness statement, Dugan described the suspect as a black male between 6 feet and 6 feet 2 inches with a thin build and a light complexion. He was wearing all black and a black baseball cap and armed with a large black pistol, police said.
In the past month, police have swarmed the tree-lined neighborhood. Dugan and other officials have advised residents not to go outside alone, to be alert and keep their porch lights on. Dugan said police have received more than 5,000 tips.
Dugan said police would remain in the neighborhood Tuesday night. He encouraged residents to be cautious.
(©2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to this report.)