TAMPA — There were big hugs all around, said Casimar Naiboa, as he and his family finally got a chance to meet the woman whose discovery of a gun in a McDonald’s bag helped end a 51-day of terror in southeast Seminole Heights.
"It was fantastic to meet her," said Naiboa of Delonda Walker, the manager of the McDonald’s restaurant in Ybor City who discovered a 40. caliber Glock pistol in a bag handed to her by Howell Emanuel Donaldson III.
On Oct. 19, Naiboa’s son — Anthony, 20 — was gunned down, police say, by Donaldson. It was the third in what would eventually be a series of four murders that Donaldson, 24, is now charged with committing.
"We hugged her and told her she is our hero," said Naiboa.
When Naiboa and his family arrived at the McDonald’s on Thursday to thank Walker, she wasn’t there. But her co-workers recognized the family and contacted Walker, who showed up about a half-hour later.
Walker, he said, explained what happened Tuesday that ultimately led the arrest and charging of Donaldson.
Some time around 2 p.m., Donaldson walked out of the restaurant and, seeing police outside, quickly ducked back in, Naiboa said. Then Donaldson handed Walker a McDonald’s bag, and told her not to look inside. Then he walked outside of the restaurant again.
Walker felt the bag was heavy, said Naiboa. She felt something hard inside. She took it into a back room, opened up the bag and saw the gun. Then, seeing a policewoman outside, she handed the bag with the gun over.
The officer called in for backup and soon, police were swarming all over, Naiboa said Walker told him.
A while later, Donaldson returned and police began to question him, Naiboa said Walker told him.
Walker, he said, described Donaldson as "weird.
"She told us he never talked to anyone but her," said Naiboa.
Other workers, whose names he did not get, said they thought that Donaldson, who had been working there for about four months, could be the man seen in the videos released by police, but were unsure.
"They told me they thought they might be thinking too much," said Naiboa.
The family — his wife Maria Rodriguez and children Taino, Karen, Nubia and Guarionex — were all wearing T-shirts with Anthony’s picture. They thanked Walker profusely, Naiboa said.
"If it wasn’t for her," he said, "that guy might still be out there."
At first, Walker didn’t know the extent of what she had done, said Naiboa.
She didn’t realize until several hours later, when media began to show up, that the man with the gun was thought to be connected to the Seminole Heights killings.
"She is kind of overwhelmed," he said. "She didn’t want the publicity and all this attention."
Days later, Naiboa said she is still having a hard time comprehending it all.
"She did such a good thing," he said. "But she said it still hasn’t sunk in yet."
Contact Howard Altman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.