Howell Donaldson: Seminole Heights suspect arrested at McDonald's after Tampa police receive tip

Posted at 4:49 PM, Nov 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-29 17:57:14-05


  • Monday, Oct. 9: Benjamin Mitchell, 22 was killed at approximately 9 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 11: Monica Hoffa, 32, was shot. Her body was found on Oct, 13.
  • Thursday, Oct. 19: Anthony Naiboa, 20, was shot at approximately 8 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 14: Ronald Felton, 60, was shot at approximately 4:51 a.m. 
  • Tuesday, Nov. 28: Howell Emanuel Donaldson III was arrested and charged with each of the murders.

Tampa police have arrested the man they say shot and killed four innocent people since October in Seminole Heights.

RELATED: Timeline of events

The tip that led police to 24-year-old Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, also know as Trai, on Tuesday afternoon, came from one of his co-workers at an Ybor City McDonalds, which is near the Seminole Heights neighborhood.

Donaldson asked an employee at the restaurant to hold a bag with a loaded semi-automatic gun while he went to a nearby business to get a payday loan, according to an arrest report.

The employee told her manager about the gun and the manager alerted a Tampa police officer at a table in the restaurant.

When Donaldson returned to the McDonald's, police were waiting.

The suspect used the same gun in all of the shootings Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said at a news conference Wednesday morning. The chief said at this point there is "no apparent motive."

Dugan said Donaldson admitted that he owned the gun that was turned over to police and cracked the case, but Donaldson did not admit to the killings. 

WFTS-TV in Tampa got exclusive video when Donaldson was taken into custody on Tuesday.

Donaldson was questioned for hours at Tampa Police Headquarters and later arrested. 

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn stood by Dugan as they announced the arrest Tuesday.

"Fifty-one days ago I said this was a struggle between good and evil, well tonight goodness has won. Tonight in the battle between darkness and light, light has won," said Buckhorn. “Tonight is the beginning of when justice will be served and then the process will occur when this individual rots in hell," he added. "Tonight we're bringing someone to justice who doesn't deserve the right to walk among us. Now, let’s go bring justice to the families who are here today.”

Watch the full press conference below:



Initially, when questioned about the firearm, the police chief said, "we have a gun, but we don't know if it's our gun," referencing the murder weapon involved in the four homicides in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in October and November.

Dugan arrived at the McDonald's shortly after 4 p.m. and was seen walking around a red Mustang that was taped off.

Detectives were later seen collecting evidence from the red Ford Mustang, believed to belong to Donaldson, parked in the McDonald's parking lot. 

Shortly before 10 p.m., we were on the scene as Tampa PD took the car into evidence. 


After Donaldson's arrest, reporter Michael Paluska spoke to the uncle of Monica Caridad Hoffa who was the second victim killed in Seminole Heights.  Watch the full interview below:


Seminole Heights residents also shared with reporter Ryan Smith that they are thankful an arrest was made.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.