Nov 14, 2017, 6:17 PM ET

4th person slain in Tampa neighborhood amid search for apparent serial killer: 'This has got to stop'


The man “killed in cold blood” on a Tampa, Florida, street early this morning was shot from behind in a case that authorities say may be related to a string of unsolved killings that has left a community on edge.

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“This has got to stop,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said today in a press conference. “We will hunt this person down until we find them.”

Police are investigating the killing, in the Seminole Heights neighborhood, where three people were shot in 11 days in October.

“We are treating it as though it is related until we rule otherwise,” interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan told reporters this morning.

Authorities have identified the latest victim as Ronald Felton, 60, who was supposed to “meet up with someone” when he was apparently targeted and killed, Dugan said.

“Someone came up from behind and shot him,” he said. “And he was left [on] the street.”

PHOTO: Ronald Felton, 60, is the 4th person slain in a Tampa neighborhood amid search for apparent serial killer.Courtesy James Felton
Ronald Felton, 60, is the 4th person slain in a Tampa neighborhood amid search for apparent serial killer.

The suspect in the killing has been described as a slim black man, about 6 feet to 6 feet 2 inches tall, with a light complexion, authorities said. He was armed with a large black pistol and was last seen wearing all black clothing, according to police.

“We do have a witness that we have been discussing [what happened],” Dugan said. “When I spoke to her, she said, ‘If our officer had been five seconds earlier, he would’ve been able to stop it.’”

Police arrived “within seconds” of 911 calls, which were placed before 5 a.m., Dugan said.

PHOTO: Ron Felton, pictured in an undated handout photo, was killed in Seminole Heights, Fla., on Nov. 14, 2017.Courtesy James Felton
Ron Felton, pictured in an undated handout photo, was killed in Seminole Heights, Fla., on Nov. 14, 2017.

‘Killed in cold blood’

Solving the killings has become personal, Buckhorn said, as he lamented having to deliver the bad news to Felton’s family.

“There will be one more family today that will be notified of a family member that was killed in cold blood,” Buckhorn said.

He added that he believes police can stop the bloodshed.

“We need to catch this killer before we need to notify one more family that one of their loved ones is dead,” Buckhorn said.

The Tampa Police Department’s Twitter account alerted the public that an “active investigation” was underway, using the hashtag #traffic.

Today’s homicide follows three unsolved killings that occurred within blocks of one another days before Halloween near a bus route used by two of the victims. Police said they believe those three killings were committed by the same person.

The other victims

The first victim was 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell. He was shot and killed steps from his home while waiting for a bus at North 15th Street at Frierson Avenue on Oct. 9.

Two days later, 32-year-old Monica Hoffa, who police say died Oct. 11, was found slain a half-mile from Mitchell, officials confirmed.

Then on Oct. 19, Anthony Naiboa, a 20-year-old man with autism, was killed in the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood after taking the wrong bus home from work.

All three killings remain unsolved, according to police.

Early on, police released pixelated photos of a person of interest, a slender individual wearing pants and a hooded windbreaker who was initially seen walking near one of the crime scenes and then picking up the pace to a sprint.

“We believe this is the same person we saw walking just moments earlier,” Dugan said during a news conference last month, adding that the person of interest likely has ties to the neighborhood.

“He is running in the other direction ... We believe this is the same person, once again, running away from the scene of the shooting.”

In surveillance videos subsequently released by police, the same individual is seen flipping and repeatedly staring at a cellphone in the person’s right hand.

‘Very scary and quite stressful’ for neighbors

The murder of Felton has again put the neighborhood on edge.

One resident who asked not to be named because of concerns about her safety told ABC News she and her dog were stirred awake this morning by what she thought was a neighbor taking out the trash.

Instead, it was gunfire.

PHOTO: Chief Dugan speaks to reporters on Nov. 14, 2017 in Tampa, Fla. WFTS
Chief Dugan speaks to reporters on Nov. 14, 2017 in Tampa, Fla.

“It was maybe three or four [shots],” the woman told ABC News. “I was in my bedroom, and I heard the shots, and I looked out from the living room, and there were cops all over the corner.”

“All you saw was red and blue lights flashing and the crime scene tape,” she added.

The resident said she was forced to be “on lockdown” in her home as police taped off her driveway.

She said she exchanged text messages with neighbors who, like her, were in their homes looking on as cops investigated the killing.

“It’s very scary and quite stressful,” she said. “I think we’re all on edge at this point.”

News - 4th person slain in Tampa neighborhood amid search for apparent serial killer: 'This has got to stop'

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  • TexasVulcan

    Knowing there are criminals in your city is one thing. Every city has them. But when you have someone out there killing randomly, it's a lot more scary. I can avoid areas that are deemed dangerous. Not so easy in Tampa.

  • holycow

    Have law enforcement upon finding each victim used bloodhounds to track the trail of this killer? They have had 4 opportunities now to do this. If the killer is walking when killing these people, or even getting out of a car and killing these people, a bloodhound could give them clues such as sniffing up to the street and then losing scent, meaning the killer jumped in his car and allow law enforcement to check surveillance camera footage around the scene to catch the car make, etc. or if the bloodhound followed the trail on foot there where the scent disappeared, such as a grocery store, or an apartment building, etc., allowing them to get further surveillance and interviews with people who witnessed customers coming in that may fit the description which the last victim's witness gave of the killer. Bloodhounds are used heavily in rural areas to track killers so it is hard to understand why law enforcement has not used such dogs or if they have, have not got enough clues to narrow the field on investigating the trail of this killer. With everyone on alert in this town and the news saying police believe he is living in the town, it seems like police are not using all the tools that are at their disposal to get this killer that kills people who need to travel at night to work or otherwise.

  • Citizen123

    I hope they can catch this guy soon!

  • Duane Locsin

    Since when do serial killers tend to use guns?

    They have shown to be more "personal" and "intimate" with their victims by the use of knives, blades, bare hands etc, not with a gun shooting someone in the back as to draw attention.

    Also serial killers tend to "hunt" in familiar local areas to themselves and move on if under pressure.

  • John Rawls

    police spox gave away their apprehension tactics, man.

  • Mari Marigold

    Someone knows who is committing these murders. I hope that someone comes forward soon.

  • ruelph

    Another mass shooting, when will this madness end?

  • Omegacron

    What kind of self-respecting serial killer uses a gun?

  • Nathan Broussard

    never walk a straight line, make sure you zigzag, they have these sunglasses that can look back through a tiny camera to see who is following you. for a few dollars more it comes in night vision, wear sneakers so if necessary you can run, plan a strategy to hide, don't worry when seconds count the police are minutes away, if you meet someone meet them in the lobby at the police department

  • I ams what I ams

    One victim was 22 years old and attended high school? Is that a typo?

  • Jonathan Jackson

    “We are treating it as although it is related until we rule otherwise,”
    Is this a typo or an actual quote?

  • Thomas

    Suspect used a "big black gun". Well that should help.

  • StevieRayFan

    It's a sad day when someone has so little respect for human life, and to kill a stranger (or so it seems) makes this creep a special kind of dangerous. I hope he's caught soon.

  • Pangaea 47

    Staying in after dark and never going out alone is good advice but difficult to always follow. I hope the catch him soon and stop the terror of living in that neighborhood.

  • Jakob Stagg

    It sounds like a neighborhood to avoid. If one must be there, be armed and have an armed friend with you The simple reality is, most likely a cop will NOT be there to protect you. They identify bodies after the death. Hopefully, the perp of the deadly threat is the one who is dead.

    It is your right to defend yourself.

  • John Michael Davis

    I'd move.

  • TexasVulcan

    A man is found shot dead. And it's "suspicious"? Not much of a stretch there.