Ronald Felton was walking to church to feed the homeless at approximately 5 a.m. on Tuesday when he was fatally shot, making him the fourth victim of a serial killer terrorizing Tampa, Florida.
Felton’s random murder took place just blocks away from a memorial honoring three people who were killed within days of one another in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa.
Tampa Police Department Public Information Officer Steve Hegarty said it is not known if the death is connected to the three October murders, but the crime will be treated as such until authorities can rule it out.
As police searched the area for a suspect, residents were told to lock their doors and stay in place.
“We need folks to think about everything they heard last night and everything they saw this morning,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said during a press conference Tuesday morning. “We need to catch this killer before we have to notify one more family that their loved one is dead.”
A father of three adult children, Felton, 60, was on his way to feed the homeless at New Season Apostolic Church when he was ruthlessly murdered, his twin brother, James Felton, told NBC News.
James Felton told reporters that when his twin wasn’t at his construction job, the man spent every Tuesday and Thursday morning helping at the church. The brothers spoke on the phone just moments before the shooting happened.
“The people he works with were already there and they heard four shots,” the victim’s brother told reporters.
The first police showed up at the scene within a minute. Believing that the suspect was still in the area, a massive police presence descended on the neighborhood. Streets were cordoned off as officers knocked on doors in addition to deploying K-9 units and helicopter searches.
Interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan urged Tampa residents who own firearms to check on the location of their weapons.
“If you own a firearm of any type, we need you to verify that it’s where it needs to be,” Dugan said.
- The first killing took place on Oct. 9 when Benjamin Mitchell, 22, was shot in Seminole Heights while waiting for a bus.
- Monica Hoffa, 32, was found dead in a vacant lot on Oct. 13 after being shot.
- While walking on Oct. 19, Anthony Naiboa, 20, was shot and killed.
“My understanding from talking to one of the detectives is that they have 750 leads called in and that’s a mountain of information to go through one by one,” Kenny Hoffa, Monica Hoffa’s father, said. “I’m just praying one of those leads … pans out.
“I hope they bring him to justice today and I’ll be on my way to Tampa — just to look him in his eyes. He’s got some answering to do. We, and now it sounds like three other families, deserve answers,” Hoffa added.
Police have released video of a person of interest running during the night of the first murder. Although he is not thought to be a suspect, officials believe the person of interest might have been within range of the murder.
Currently, authorities are offering a $41,000 reward for anyone who has information leading to the arrest of a suspect.