TAMPA — From his bed in St. Joseph's Hospital, 87-year-old Tom Parks talked about how his home was burglarized three times in three weeks.
He talked about how he caught a man breaking into his front door Sept. 24 during the second burglary.
And he talked about how he felt like he was going to be killed when a man — the same man, he thinks — attacked him Sunday.
"I felt terrible," Parks said Wednesday from the hospital, where he is recovering from a broken hip. "I felt like that was going to be my last night on Earth."
Parks was returning home just after 11 p.m. Sunday when John Edward Harris, 44, approached him from behind, pulled a knife and forced his way inside, according to police.
Harris demanded money and a gun Parks owned. Harris pushed him to the ground, fracturing Parks' right hip, Parks said. Harris ran through the house taking jewelry and cash.
Reggie Holland, 55, who lives next door, called police when he heard Parks scream. Officers arrived and arrested Harris on charges of home invasion, armed kidnapping and battery on a victim over age 65.
"If my neighbor hadn't heard me, I wouldn't be here today," Parks said.
Parks, who served in the Army in World War II, was still unable to walk Wednesday. Doctors placed a pin in his hip and told him he will have to go through rehabilitation to walk again.
Between talk of the home invasion and the burglary attempts to his home, he recounted some of his experiences as a young man.
He helped build bridges with Army engineers in Europe during World War II. He was arrested protesting for civil rights in his native Alabama. For most of his life, he worked as a packer for the Swift Meat Packing Co., first in Alabama and Chicago, then in Tampa, where he has made his home for the past 40 years. He retired in 1988.
He said he never felt as close to death as he did Sunday.
"The police came and they said, 'Is everything all right?' and he (Harris) said 'Yes,' " Parks said. "I said, 'No, this man is trying to kill me.' "
He thinks Harris had been watching him since the first break-ins on Sept. 22 and 24.
The first time, thieves made off with more than $300 and some rings that he owned, Parks said. The second time, he arrived home in time to see a man trying to break in his front door. The burglaries are still under investigation, police said.
Parks had spent Sunday evening chatting with friends at a nearby McDonald's. He drove home and turned off a home alarm system before Harris grabbed him, he said.
"I hope he stays in jail the rest of his life," Parks said. "I have nothing to say to him."
Dan Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3321.