It was a string of murders that had the entire Tampa Bay area terrified. The Seminole Heights neighborhood, one of the city’s most dynamic and desirable for couples and families, was shocked by the gunshot deaths of four people over a span of 51 days.
With little evidence to go on other than security camera footage showing a man in a hoodie and a witness describing a suspect as a tall African-American male, law enforcement were stuck and called on the public to help solve the case.
After a terrorized community banded together with police and Crime Stoppers to put up a $110,000 reward, there was hope that the killer would finally be stopped in his tracks. Then finally, the news came in that the killer had been arrested.
But none of it ever would have happened without the intervention of Delonda Walker.
— New York Post (@nypost) December 1, 2017
The manager of the busy Ybor City McDonald’s, Walker was working as usual, managing the evening rush, when something strange happened. One of her former employees, Howell Donaldson III, came into the fast food restaurant and gave his manager a bag with something in it.
“When confronted with this situation, I wanted to do the right thing,” Walker wrote in a statement read by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckthorn, per WTVT. “Receiving a reward never entered my mind.”
Walker passed the suspicious bag on to police, tipping them off about Donaldson’s strange behavior. When they opened the bag up, they saw a firearm and ammunition that matched the exact description of those that had been used in the four separate murders. The former employee was later taken into custody for the alleged killings.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) December 2, 2017
At first, it seemed like Walker was “not eligible for the $5,000 reward money” offered by Crime Stoppers, “because she did not actually call the 1-800 tip line.”
But after discussion with the backers of the reward—the police chief, and mayor—and public outcry, including a short-lived GoFundMe campaign to make sure Walker got the whole reward, there was an abrupt reversal. Chief of Police Brian Dugan reassured the public that given her heroic actions, Walker would “receive every penny,” per WTVT.
As Mayor Bob Buckthorn put it, “Today we are a safer community because Ms. Walker did the right thing.” The families of the slain victims also wanted Walker to know that they appreciated what she had done. The family of Monica Hoffa, who was 32 years old and working as a waitress at the time of her murder, thanked Walker in person.
Kenny Hoffa, Monica’s father, told WFTS how grateful he was to Walker for her courageous action. “She’s a hero to all of us and our family.” Hoffa got emotional as he recounted the meeting with the McDonald’s manager.
He added, “She took all of that worry that was out there. She made us all whole again.”
For Delonda Walker, who seems to be taken aback by all the media attention, the most important thing is that the families of the victims and the residents of Seminole Heights can have some measure of peace restored to them.
“I went to work on Tuesday intending to serve customers and to do my job,” Walker said in her statement to the public, per WTVT. “Looking back, I am grateful to know I was helpful in assisting law enforcement.”