TAMPA — A 60-year-old man was shot and killed before dawn Tuesday morning in Seminole Heights, the fourth victim in a series of killings that started in the neighborhood last month, Tampa police said.
The victim was identified as Ronald Felton, 60, of Tampa, an unemployed construction worker who volunteered Tuesdays and Fridays at a food bank near the shooting scene.
Police Chief Brian Dugan said police received reports of shots fired at 4:51 a.m. near Nebraska Avenue and E McBerry Street.
Investigators believe the shooting is connected to the three previous slayings in Southeast Seminole Heights.
"It's very unfortunate here that we've had another one," Dugan said during a news conference at the shooting scene.
Felton was crossing the street to meet someone when the shooter came up behind him, police said.
"This has got to stop," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at the news conference. "We will hunt this person down until we find them."
Police described the suspect in a news release as a black male, 6-foot to 6-foot-2, with a thin build and light complexion and armed with a large black pistol. He was last seen wearing all black clothing. At the news conference, police said he was wearing a baseball cap.
Robert Clark, who was doing laundry at a laundromat near the shooting scene, told the Tampa Bay Times he heard the gunfire, turned and saw a man running east.
"I'm getting ready to put another 75 cents in the machine when I hear a 'Boom, boom,'" Clark said. "Five of them. I see a man lying in that street and another running to that road.
"When I got to the man, he was laid out bad."
Elton Sheppard, 73, who lives near the food bank, was getting ready to go to the laundromat, too, when he heard five shots. He estimated that police arrived five to 10 minutes afterward.
Signs at the laundromat say it has video recorders. Melissa Deming, who owns property in neighborhood, said she and others there have been asked to turn over any video they have to police.
Officers found Felton's body in the road along N Nebraska Avenue, north of E Caracas Street.
Police believe the shooter lives in the neighborhood and are asking residents to stay indoors until they clear the scene.
The suspect "hasn't gone very far, and we're talking to as many people as we can to see what they may have seen," said police spokesman Steve Hegarty.
Police and were going door to door Tuesday morning along a perimeter stretching from Osborne Avenue north to Hillsborough Avenue, and Nebraska Avenue east to 15th Street. Just before 10 a.m., they brought in a dog to help with the search near Nebraska and McBerry Street.
They were asking people where the were at the time of the Tuesday shooting and the other shootings, lingering and taking mobile phone photos of people at some addresses.
Some people who were trying to leave the area or return were asked to wait.
Lori Skiles, 51, had to leave for work at 11:30 a.m. and was allowed out.
"I'm just not allowed back in until they are done," Skiles said.
Friends and relatives of Felton's gathered near the scene of the shooting once word spread that he was the victim.
Cynthia Murray, 68, said Felton was living with her at her home near the corner of Florida Avenue and Emma Street. He had been homeless and Murray took him in "some time ago," she said.
He worked much of his life in construction in Tampa but was not working lately, volunteering Tuesdays and Fridays with a food bank at the New Season Apostolic Ministries, Murray said. The ministry is at the intersection where the body was found, Nebraska and Caracas.
Felton would show up to help with the food bank at 2:30 a.m., she said.
"They do good work there for those who need it," said neighbor Sheppard. "They're all real good people. I've been on this block a long time and I've never seen anything like this. When the sun is down I'm inside and that's not right."
The line of people seeking food stretches down Caracas once serving begins, neighbors said.
A native of New York, Felton had a twin brother, Reggie, Murray said.
"Anybody who knows Tampa knows the twins and they know if you ask (Ronnie) for help he would do whatever you wanted," she said. "He didn't need to come here every week but he loved it."
Felton was looking forward to helping at the food bank Tuesday because his brother Reggie was off work and planned to join him, Murray said.
"He hadn't seen his brother much lately -— his twin," she said. "He was so excited to spend time with his brother today."
Murray said she believes Felton may have known the killer because witnesses reported he crossed the street to speak with him. She said police told her Felton was on his mobile phone with his brother Reggie at the time of the shooting so she hopes he said a name before he died.
Cassandra Davis, 29, said the Felton twins are as well known in West Tampa as they are in the Seminole Hights area.
"The neighborhoods are one big family," Davis said. "They all know the twins. They're good people"
Linda Daniels, who said she is a cousin of Felton's, said, "He was the sweetest person, never any problems."
For Casimar Naiboa, father of one of the three earlier shooting victims, news of another killing in Seminole Heights "is like salt in the wound"
"It brings back dark memories," said Naiboa, 50, whose 20-year-old son Anthony Naiboa was killed Oct. 19. "I still dream about my son."
As the father of a murder victim, Naiboa said he "feels bad for this victims' family.
"When someone loses a son it is the worst feeling," he said. "I send my condolences to them."
Police have told him they hope the killer makes a mistake, Naiboa said.
"But every time he makes a mistake, someone loses their life."
This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.
Staff writer Howard Altman contributed to this report. Contact Paul Guzzo at [email protected]