TAMPA — Now that a McDonald's coworker of the man charged with shooting four people in Seminole Heights has been credited with helping break the case, will she get the $110,000 reward money?
Authorities are still sorting that out, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan told reporters at a news conference Wednesday. But the McDonald's worker has already received $9,000 of the reward after restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart stopped by the restaurant to hand her a personal check on Wednesday.
The woman, whose name has not been released, deserves the money he pledged for her role in leading police to 24-year-old Howell Donaldson III, Gonzmart said.
"I didn't want to wait for anybody to decide (about the reward) because I made that commitment, and when I give my word, I'm going to do something."
Gonzmart had pledged that amount earlier this month, helping to bring the reward total to $100,000. Most of that sum is from money from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Crime Stoppers, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI. About $6,000 was donated by the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association, Liberty Property Management and a number of fund raising events.
Philanthropist David Straz Jr., who is considering a run for mayor in 2019, pledged the last $10,000 to bring the sum to $110,000. Leslie Spencer, a spokeswoman for Straz's political action committee, will consult with Dugan to decide how to distribute the money he pledged.
Donaldson showed up Tuesday afternoon at the McDonalds in Ybor City where he worked and handed the woman a paper McDonald's food bag, then left.
"The coworker opened the bag when Mr. Donaldson left and found the gun inside," Dugan said. "Didn't think much of it, just thought it was strange that there was a gun in there and gave the bag to a police officer that was in the McDonald's. That was the bit of information we were looking for. That is what we needed."
By then, investigators already knew that the murders were committed with the same gun, Dugan said. Lab tests on Donaldson's .40 caliber Glock showed that bullets used in all four murders were fired from that gun, according to police. He was arrested Tuesday and charged with four counts of first-degree murder.
Dugan said he couldn't thank the woman enough "for standing up and doing the right thing and saying this doesn't seem right."
Asked by a reporter if she would receive at least some of the reward, Dugan replied, "We're going to sift through everything and see what rewards will be appropriate."
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Gonzmart described the McDonald's worker as a humble woman who said she didn't think she was a hero.
"I don't believe she did it for the reward, which makes it even more special and made me feel happy that I had done it," he said. "I told her it takes a lot of courage, and that a lot of people wouldn't have done what she did. If we had more individuals like her, I think our city, state and country would be a safer place."
They hugged, he said, and both shed some tears. Gonzmart hopes to host her for dinner as a VIP at the Columbia Restaurant soon.
Contact Tony Marrero at email@example.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.