Seminole Heights, Tampa police remain on alert after latest slaying

By Spectrum Bay News 9 Team Coverage,
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 14, 2017, 6:05 PM EST

Tampa Police continued going door-to-door Tuesday after an overnight shooting death in the Seminole Heights area of Tampa.

It's the same area where three people were shot and killed in October.

A family friend said Ronnie Felton, 60, got off his bus stop shortly before 5 a.m. Tuesday and was headed to his church to help feed the homeless when he was shot and killed.

His body was found at North Nebraska Avenue and East McBerry Street. The busy road was shut down for hours before Nebraska Avenue was finally reopened Tuesday afternoon.

Debra Green couldn't hold back the tears as she remembered Felton.

"Been knowing him since we were kids, I mean literally children from Carver City," Green said.

Police believe Felton's death is related to the October string of murders in Seminole Heights.

Chief Brian Dugan described the possible suspect as a black man with a thin build who was dressed in all black and wearing a baseball cap. 

"Two lanes and he would've been in the church door," Green said of Felton. "That was just terrible, doing his civic duty and he come up and lost his life for it."

Sara Romeo said Felton also volunteered with Tampa Crossroads. She is the director and CEO.

"He was a wonderful person, assisted our outreach occasionally to find veterans that might need our assistance," Romeo said. "Very, very nice man, wonderful man."

SHOOTER NARROWLY ELUDES OFFICERS

Police responded to the area within one minute of the shooting being reported, but the gunman was gone. A witness said police missed him by seconds.

The latest shooting was unnerving for those living in the area.

"We were in shock. We're still in shock," said LaJuanda Moates of Moates Florist. "This community has really suffered."

Families who live where the shooting occurred Tuesday were told not to leave their homes. Local officers and even the FBI went door-to-door and chopped down thick brush as they searched for the shooter.

"I can only speculate that it's someone who is commutable and has some sort of knowledge," Dugan said. "Because how can he do this and vanish so quickly?"

The search for the killer in the four cases has been frustrating for police.

"You know, I think that frustration is now stemming into anger," Dugan said in a one-on-one interview with Bay News 9. "You know, this is stuff that I've taken very personal. To have to meet with a fourth family reference this whole situation, it doesn't get any easier."

FOUR LIVES TAKEN IN JUST WEEKS

Three people were shot and killed in the Seminole Heights area within 10 days in October. 

Benjamin Mitchell, 22, was killed on Oct. 9. Two days later, 32-year-old Monica Hoffa was killed in a vacant lot. Anthony Naiboa, 20, was shot and killed Oct. 19.

Police said they are continuing to follow leads in the previous three murders.

Until Tuesday's slaying, it had been nearly a month since the latest shooting death in Seminole Heights.

A former FBI investigator said the gap in shootings could be a "cooling off period" and said it is typical behavior of criminal predators and serial killers.

"They'll conduct some of the crimes, and then lay low for a while, and then potentially come back, and that is indicative of a serial killer," said Dave Couvertier.

Officers also asking any residents who may have seen anything in the area overnight or have home surveillance cameras to contact them at (813) 231-6130.

"We need everyone's cooperation," Dugan said. "The neighborhood has been very engaged and extremely helpful (during the investigation). We need to talk to everyone."

Police are asking neighbors to remain in their homes, turn their porch lights on, stay in groups and make sure their surveillance cameras are working.

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