Ex-St. John's walk-on arrested in connection to four murders in Tampa

This photo made available by the Tampa Police Department, Fla., on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, shows Howell Emanuel Donaldson, 24, under arrest. (Tampa Police Department via AP)

Stories about college basketball walk-ons are typically heartwarming or inspirational. This one, to say the least, is not.

A 24-year-old former St. John’s walk-on was arrested Tuesday on four counts of first-degree murder. Howell Emanuel Donaldson III is accused of shooting and killing three men and one woman at random in the Old Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa between Oct. 9 and Nov. 14.

Donaldson was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon at the McDonald’s where he worked, the Tampa Bay Times reported. According to the newspaper, Donaldson walked into the fast-food restaurant and asked his manager to hold a paper bag that had a loaded gun in it while he went to get a payday loan.

Understandably spooked, the manager did not know what to do with the gun. Eventually the manager alerted a police officer who happened to be doing paperwork inside the McDonald’s, paving the way for Donaldson’s arrest when he returned.

Donaldson allegedly purchased the gun six days before the first killing, police said. Cartridge casings discovered at all four crime scenes matched the gun, according to police.

The break was what police had been waiting for in their six-week search for the Seminole Heights serial killer. Police had been hunting for a suspect they believe gunned down Benjamin Mitchell, 22, Monica Hoffa, 32, Anthony Naiboa, 20, and Ronald Felton, 60, as they were walking through the streets of their neighborhood.

Donaldson walked onto the St. John’s basketball team during the 2011-12 season while former coach Steve Lavin was in charge of the program. Donaldson, who went by the first name “Trai” at St. John’s, was a member of the team for only one year and did not appear in a game.

Donaldson was a varsity basketball player at Alonso High School in Tampa prior to enrolling at St. John’s. He graduated from the high school in 2011.

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