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Crime & Courts

Suspect in Family Dollar killing arrested in Orlando


Published:   |   Updated: July 21, 2013 at 12:17 PM

TAMPA - After an almost week-long manhunt, Tampa police and the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force arrested the man accused of killing a Family Dollar store manager in Tampa on July 14.

Demetrius Parks, 23, was arrested in Orlando at about 10 a.m. Saturday on a Greyhound bus headed to Lakeland, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.

Police say Parks, who has an extensive criminal record, shot and killed Horsley Shorter Jr., who tried to stop Parks from robbing the dollar store.

Parks was hiding in Atlanta, and boarded the Greyhound late Friday night, McElroy said. Officers surrounded the bus when it stopped at a terminal off the John Young Parkway. Parks tried to escape through an emergency exit, but he quickly was captured, McElroy said.

"He is no longer a threat to our community," she said at a news conference Saturday afternoon.

Police said Parks went into the Family Dollar at 4900 N. 40th St. early on the morning of July 14 and demanded money from a clerk behind the counter. Shorter, who was in a back office, saw what was happening and came out to help his co-worker. Parks shot Shorter, 49, and forced the clerk out into the parking lot, police said.

He ordered the clerk to get into the trunk of the victim's car, but the clerk pleaded with him and Parks drove away, police said.

Shorter, a retired 26-year Army veteran who recently had moved to Tampa to take care of his mother, was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he died, police said.

Police released surveillance video of the store robbery, and tips came in that helped officers identify Parks and find the car in which he left the store, authorities said. CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel Outdoor donated 28 billboards that went up across the Tampa Bay area with Parks' photograph on them

"Community cooperation in this case has been very important, critical to our investigation," McElroy said.

A $16,000 reward was offered for any information leading to his arrest and conviction.

"We knew it would be very difficult for him to hide in the Tampa Bay area, which makes sense why he fled to Georgia," McElroy said.

It is unclear why Parks decided to return to Florida, she said. Parks has been uncooperative since he was arrested and slept during most of the drive back to Tampa from Orlando.

But police knew he had been in contact with family and friends, all in Florida, she said.

Parks previously served three years in state prison for weapons charges. Since his release in March 2012, Tampa police have arrested him four times on charges of burglary, grand theft, opposing an officer and being a felon in possession of a firearm. In total, Parks has faced 37 felony charges and 25 misdemeanor charges.

Parks is being held at the Hillsborough County Jail. He now faces additional charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery, carjacking and attempted kidnapping.

While a tip from the public isn't what led them to the Greyhound bus, McElroy said, the community's response shows how outraged people are about the killing.

"It was certainly a ruthless crime," McElroy said. "Horsley Shorter was a good man."

Shorter's sister, Trinetta Williams of Tampa, said her brother was the type of person who would get out of bed in the middle of the night to help someone in need.

"He was a loving person," Williams said. "He cared about the people he was surrounded by."

Michael Zinicola of Orlando served with Shorter in the Air Force Reserves. He said their unit is like a close-knit family, and many members are devastated by Shorter's death.

"He was always upbeat and always had a smile," Zinicola said. He was the type of person "that would give you the shirt off his back."

Carlos Rodriquez, Shorter's friend of 20 years, said much the same.

"He was just genuine," he said. "He was a gentleman."

Shorter, known among friends as J.R., was a man of old-fashioned values, Rodriguez said. He served his country, worked hard, took care of his mom and didn't tolerate ignorance.

"We don't have that anymore," Rodriguez said. "Look at the young man that did this."

Ebehrman@Tampatrib.com

(813)259-7691

Twitter: @LizBehrmanTBO

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