YBOR CITY — After the funeral, no one wanted to leave.
The afternoon sun was bright Saturday, baking the parking lot at Allen Temple AME Church. But dozens of friends and family stood outside telling jokes, sharing stories about Ronald Felton.
How unreal it was that a good guy like that could just be gone — like that — gunned down by a killer in Seminole Heights.
Who knew, maybe they would be next.
"Ronnie never worried about anything. He was always saying, ‘God watches out for us,’ " said Julia E. Jackson, 55, Felton’s friend for 30 years. "Then this happens. An evilness, that’s what it was. With no warning."
Felton, 60, was walking to volunteer at a food pantry on Nebraska Avenue when he was shot dead on the morning of Nov. 14. He was getting to the pantry early, his supervisor said, to help protect people from a serial killer who has been plaguing Seminole Heights since October.
Police think Felton is the killer’s fourth victim.
"Ronnie, he was always helping the elderly, walking old ladies to their cars, carrying their groceries — not just folks he knew, all kinds of strangers," Jackson said. "And he was always goofing around, making everyone laugh."
Felton was born in New York and grew up in West Tampa, one of James Felton’s 21 children. "That’s those we know about," said his oldest sister, Tina Felton, 65. "Daddy was a rolling stone."
Tina looked after Felton and his identical twin brother, Reggie. "Lord, those two were a mess from the time they were 2," she said. "I remember snatching them from a strip club where they were dancing. They weren’t even old enough to drink. ‘The Twin Towers of Power,’ they called themselves. I said, ‘Put on your pants, boys, we’re going home. And read this here Bible ’til I get sick of looking at you.’ "
The twins went to Jefferson High School and, in the 1970s, started getting into trouble — often together: auto theft, burglary, drugs. "When Reggie went to jail, Ronnie went with him," Tina said. "The first time Reggie got married, Ronnie waited a month, then found himself a wife, too."
Felton worked for Alfred Construction for 25 years, and had volunteered at the pantry at New Season Apostolic Ministries for more than a decade. He had been homeless, and said he knew how the people at the food bank felt. "For a while, everything was going wrong for Ronnie," Tina said. "But then he came to me and let me know he was giving his life over to God."
Five months ago, Felton had joined Allen Temple, where his brother and other family members attended. On Saturday, 125 people were there for his funeral.
His wife, whom he hadn’t seen in decades, came. So did a son he had never met.
"He had changed. He had committed to this church, to our God," said Hiram Jones, a trustee at the temple. "You have to be happy for him, that, in the end, he had finally found that."
On the morning his twin got shot, Reggie Felton said he felt a twinge. He was sure something was wrong. But when he heard his brother was dead, he couldn’t accept it. That meant half of him was gone, too.
"We were the same person," Reggie Felton said. "I’m going to miss his loud laugh … well, I’m going to miss everything."
Reggie’s wife, Gloria, said no one understands why Ronnie was shot, especially when he was just turning his life around. "I just hope they find that killer," she said. "It’s so awful that he’s still out there somewhere."
The church where Felton’s funeral was held is in Ybor City, about three miles from Seminole Heights. Maybe that’s one reason so many people were still standing outside an hour after the service had ended. Maybe there, together, they felt safer.
Contact Lane DeGregory at ldegregory[email protected] Follow @LaneDeGregory.