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Thursday, Aug 28, 2014
Editorials

A hero and a senseless slaying

Published:

While the nation's attention remains focused on the George Zimmerman murder trial verdict, a senseless Tampa crime reveals more about threats to Americans, black and white.

The 49-year-old manager of a Family Dollar Store on 40th Street was shot to death during a robbery Sunday.

Horsley Shorter Jr., a 26-year Army veteran, was coming to the defense of the clerk who was being held up.

Although it should be irrelevant, it seems appropriate to acknowledge during this week of racial tension that Shorter was black. The young clerk he died defending was white.

Shorter's heroism stands in stark contrast to the posturing on all sides of Zimmerman's trial in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

The suspect in the Tampa case is black. As many observers have pointed out this week, most blacks are murdered by other blacks. (Most whites are killed by other whites.) It doesn't diminish the reality or threat of racial profiling - which was never proved in the Zimmerman case - to recognize criminal predators are a greater threat to all Americans, regardless of race.

The strongest defense is a criminal justice system that keeps the chronically lawless off our streets.

This case is troubling because the 23-year-old suspect, Demetrius Parks, was free despite a lengthy record.

The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office says he had 14 felonies and 16 misdemeanors.

He had been sentenced to three years in prison on three firearm-related felonies in 2009 and was released March 31, 2012.

Since then he had been charged with a number of crimes, including three burglaries.

According to State Attorney Mark Ober, there are a number of reasons why Parks was still on the street:

The prison sentence did not include any conditions after release; subsequent charges involved property and reports did not always make clear that homes were burglarized; and the suspect had consistently shown up for court and was not a flight risk who would merit high bond.

It is all too easy to second-guess a system where in-take court must process about 100 newly charged defendants each morning.

Still, with the suspect's history of firearm offenses - though not violence - it's regrettable his criminal record did not draw more attention.

Ober, to his credit, is scrutinizing events.

Complaints are often heard about the nation's high incarceration rate - nearly 750 per 100,000 people. But it's surely no coincidence that the nation's crime rate plummeted as the prison rates increased.

Between 1993 and 2010, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports, violent crime declined 70 percent.

Yet there remain too many ruthless individuals who kill senselessly and casually.

The tragic killing at the Family Dollar Store in Tampa on Sunday provided a powerful demonstration of humanity at its worst - and at its best.

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