TAMPA — Six days after police say he fatally shot the manager of a Family Dollar store during a robbery, Demetrius Parks was arrested Saturday in Orlando.
Parks, 23, was arrested by Tampa police — with assistance from U.S. Marshals and Orlando police — about 10 a.m. Saturday after the Greyhound bus he was riding pulled into a terminal in Orlando. He had been hiding out in Atlanta, but boarded a bus there late Friday night for Lakeland, where he has friends and family, according to police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.
"He is no longer a threat to our community," McElroy said Saturday afternoon, minutes after two officers led Parks from police headquarters into a cruiser and drove him to the Hillsborough County Jail. Parks, wearing blue jeans and a black t-shirt bearing the image of musician Bob Marley, did not answer questions as he was led into the car. He repeatedly said, "Call Wayne," not clarifying whom he was referring to.
Parks has some distinct identifying characteristics that were on display Saturday: a tattoo on his forehead of something with wings, and a scar extending from the right side of his mouth similar to that of the Joker character from the Batman comic books and films.
Saturday's arrest capped a weeklong manhunt for Parks, who is accused of killing Horsley Shorter Jr., 49, a 26-year military veteran friends and police called a "hero" and a "pillar of the community."
Just before 9 a.m. last Sunday, police said, Parks demanded money from a clerk at the Family Dollar store at 4900 N 40th St. in East Tampa. Shorter, who had been in the office, ran out to defend the clerk, and was shot by Parks, who then forced the clerk out of the store at gunpoint, stole the clerk's car, and fled. Shorter, whom friends called "JR," was taken to a hospital but died.
"It was a ruthless crime," McElroy said Saturday. "The day he died, Horsley Shorter was doing the right thing.
In the last week, police released an image from the store's surveillance system, in which the shooter glares directly into the camera. Several callers identified the shooter as Parks, a career criminal who has been arrested on 37 felony charges and 25 misdemeanor charges since he was 14, according to Tampa police and state records.
Saturday's arrest was Parks' fifth since his March 2012 release from state prison, where he served most of a three-year sentence for weapons-related convictions. Parks faces charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery, carjacking and attempted kidnapping, among others.
McElroy lauded community cooperation in helping police locate Parks.
"There are too many cases where people don't pick up the phone and share information with us,'' she said. "This was not one of those cases."
Parks returned to Florida, McElroy speculated, because he had no contacts elsewhere. When police boarded his bus Saturday morning, Parks jumped out an emergency exit, police said, but he was quickly apprehended. Parks slept through most of the ride from Orlando to Tampa, McElroy said, and did not admit to the crimes during questioning.
Shorter had worked at the Family Dollar store for four years after a 20-year career in the U.S. Army and a six-year stint in the Air Force. He was the seventh of eight children to Hattie Lee Shorter, 83, and since his death friends and family have regularly gathered at the East Tampa home Shorter shared with his mother.
Hattie Lee Shorter was happy to hear of Parks' arrest, relatives said.
"It calmed her down a bit," said David Shorter, 58, outside the home Saturday. Inside, a crowd was gathered around the TV.
"He was a decent man," Shorter, a forklift operator from Tampa, said of his brother. When asked how he felt about Parks' arrest, Shorter said: "He deserved it."
"Steal if you've got to steal," Shorter said, "but why do you have to take someone's life?"
Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400.