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[OPINION] Public Assistance with Solving Crime is More Important than We Realize

TAMPA, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – The Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa, Florida was gripped with fear for close to two months as many residents and others called on police to find and locate a serial killer suspected of killing four victims in the area. During the period after the first shooting on October 9, investigators collected evidence and later released a possible description of a person of interest that was captured on video.

Earlier last month, police released more video images that showed the description of a suspect in the area of another shooting. This description was similar to the previous images which showed this person’s gait and clothing. Police rely heavily on public response and cooperation when solving cases and gathering evidence.

Many times police release information to the public for basic knowledge and advisement of the process of certain cases. Often times this information is “overlooked” or just not as important to people because the average person feels that they don’t know of anybody that would commit such a crime, or what they may know may seem not important or a “big lead.” There are such cases where the public has contacted police and given information regardless of how “small” or crucial the information was. Cases have been solved by the smallest of detail.

In the Tampa case, 24-year-old Howell Donaldson III was arrested based upon police being contacted by a manager at a local McDonald’s where Donaldson was employed. Donaldson left a bag containing a firearm with another employee at the fast food restaurant. Police located and recovered a gun which has been tested and concluded to have been used in all four shootings. Donaldson also admitted to owning the gun. More evidence such as clothing was recovered in Donaldson’s vehicle. Just passing on information about a bag with a gun led to solving a very high-profile case.

Before his arrest, fellow employees at the McDonald’s said they had joked and teased Donaldson about him resembling the suspect in the news reports and on the videos released to the public. They did not actually think he was the suspect. It could be that just as many that know him have described him as a very quiet person, nice, polite, college graduate, and walk-on basketball player. Is it possible that the case could have been solved sooner if the co-workers had taken a more serious look at the reports and at least contacted police just to say they know someone who looks like the person of interest? Possibly, but we will never know.

At any cost, it is a huge relief that the shooter is in custody and the public can once again breathe a sigh of relief. In a cry from the public for the police to “catch a killer,” it was the public itself that had a great hand in making that happen. If you see something, say something.


Jim Randle is a contributor for Florida National News. |


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