TAMPA — A shoplifter charged with third-degree murder after a 65-year-old Target security officer he struggled with suffered a fatal heart attack pleaded guilty today and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Mervin Bettis, 36, described by his family as a compulsive shoplifter, said nothing before his sentence. On May 27, 2011, he was caught leaving a Target store on Hillsborough Avenue with $1,100 worth of razor blade cartridges he hadn't paid for.
Retired FBI agent Russell Horner was one of two Target security officers who struggled with him after he tried to flee.
Minutes after the security officers handcuffed Bettis, Horner collapsed. He died an hour later.
A person can be charged with felony murder if a death occurs during the commission of a felony, in this case grand theft. Bettis was given credit for a year and eight months he already has served in jail. He could have received up to 30 years in prison.