TAMPA (FOX 13) - Tampa police have swarmed a Seminole Heights neighborhood after a fourth murder happened in the area early this morning. Investigators say the crime has similarities to the other recent killings in the community, and they are asking residents to stay in their homes as they search for the suspect.
This latest shooting happened just before 5 a.m. at Caracas Street and Nebraska Avenue. According to Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan, 60-year-old Ronald Felton was crossing Nebraska near Wilder Avenue outside of the church where he volunteers for the early shift at a food kitchen.
That's when a suspect came up behind him, shot him, and left him in the street.
Dugan said based on the preliminary investigation, he is comfortable to say this is related to last month's trio of unsolved murders, until new information proves otherwise.
"We need everyone's cooperation and for everyone to pay attention," he said during a press conference.
Police believe Tuesday morning's suspect lives in or near the southeast Seminole Heights area. He is described as a black male, 6' to 6'2" in height, with a thin build, light complexion, dressed in all black, armed with a large black pistol, and wearing a black baseball cap.
Dugan also asks every gun owner to verify their gun is still inside their home. If not, contact Tampa police immediately at 813-231-6130. Anyone with surveillance camera equipment is also urged to contact the agency.
"We are going to stay on this until they catch this guy," pledged Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn. "Unfortunately, there will be one more family notified."
Nebraska Avenue was shut down between Hillsborough and Osborne avenues for the investigation.
Nearby school bus and public transportation services have been suspended until further notice. District officials said schools within the area are open today, but Edison Elementary spent the day under a precautionary "lock-in," meaning access was tightly controlled and outdoor activities were cancelled.
HART transportation officials say Route 9 stops on 15th Street from Martin Luther King Boulevard to Hillsborough Avenue have temporarily halted.
Chief Dugan said, after last month's murders, the department had a rapid-response plan in place, and implemented it immediately this morning. Officers were on scene within one minute, he said, and they have since saturated the area, going door-to-door in search of witnesses and surveillance video.
"Police officers are all over the place," said Steve Hegarty, Tampa police spokesman. "We hope to catch him before he gets outside the area."
Steve Zinder, the incoming neighborhood association president, said he was woken up by the police helicopters. He said in the last month, the neighborhood adjusted to have the helicopters hovering above them, but this time was different.
"They were much lower, much more concentrated, so I knew something was going on," he said. "This is not the kind of news we wanted to wake up to this morning."
Last week, Seminole Heights residents returned to some normalcy following last month's murders with a "Taste of the Heights" celebration.
"Here we go, right back into some of the craziness that we have been dealing with before," Zinder said, but also advised his neighbors to stay indoors during the search. "We don't need people adding to the madness."
This is a developing story. Stay with FOX 13 for the latest.