Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said Friday Delonda Walker will get “every penny” of the $110,000 reward offered for any tips leading to the capture of a man who gunned down four people in the city’s Seminole Heights neighborhood over the last six weeks.
“This woman made the right choice and today we are a safer community because Ms. Walker did the right thing,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said during a news conference last week. “She doesn’t want any attention. If there was no reward, she would have done the same thing. She is what’s right about this city.”
Dugan told reporters last week Walker offered law enforcement their biggest lead yet when she handed over a bag containing a handgun to a cop dining at the McDonalds where she was working in Ybor City — about four miles south of the area of the murders. Walker’s coworker, 24-year-old Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, asked her to hold the bag while he visited a nearby Amscot. Police took Donaldson into custody upon his return to the restaurant and announced four murder charges later that same day.
“When confronted with this situation, I wanted to do the right thing and I reached out to a police officer,” Walker said in a statement read by Buckhorn during Friday’s news conference. “Receiving a reward never entered my mind.”
Local, state and federal agencies — including Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — each pledged portions of the six-figure reward.
Dugan said smaller community groups and private citizens also donated cash for police equipment and space for police during the investigation.
“People did this without asking,” he said. “It says a tremendous amount of things about the bay area.”
It’s been 51 days since Donaldson claimed his first alleged victim — 22-year-old Benjamin Edward Mitchell at a bus stop near his home in Seminole Heights Oct. 9. Four days later, residents discovered the body of 32-year-old Monica Caridad Hoffa in a vacant lot six blocks away. A third man, 20-year-old Anthony Naiboa, was gunned down Oct. 19 — just 200 yards from where Mitchell was found shot.
Police suspected the cases were linked and released video footage of a man believed to be involved in the crimes. Thousands of tips poured in over the next four weeks as the reward for information leading to the killer climbed into the tens of thousands.
The murder of 60-year-old Ronald Felton on Nov. 14 as he crossed the street to the food bank where he volunteered twice a week, however, spurred new leads in the case — including additional video footage of the same suspect.
Dugan said last week the discovery of the gun proved to be a turning point in the investigation.
“We’ve had tips before,” he said during a news conference Wednesday. “It was a heavy burden to start off as chief of police and to have four murders on your watch. That’s a tough pill to swallow. I will carry that for the rest of my life.”
“I assure you, this is the man who did this,” he added.