TARPON SPRINGS — Jareem Roach heard arguing from the parking lot, peered out the window of his second-floor apartment and saw a man waving a gun. He grabbed a 9mm Ruger and bolted downstairs.
"By the time I make it out here, man," Roach said Wednesday, "it's just a whole bunch of shots."
Roach found a wounded Tarpon Springs police officer on the pavement "fighting for his life." As a white Hyundai sped away from the Glen's Eureka apartment building, Roach said, he recognized the driver.
It was a former friend: Marco A. Parilla Jr.
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They became pals in prison in Lake City. Roach was sentenced in 2010 to six years on charges of armed robbery, aggravated assault and felony battery. Parilla was serving three years on multiple charges, including drug trafficking and dealing in stolen property, records show.
"He was always a cool dude to me," Roach said. "I looked at him as a little brother."
Parilla, now 24, was released in March 2014. Roach, also 24, was released four months later. He had nowhere to go, he said, so Parilla invited him to stay at his apartment at Glen's Eureka, 199 Grand Blvd. in Tarpon Springs.
Roach said he was determined to stay out of prison. He started working for a drywall contractor and bought a 1992 Ford Explorer. But an argument over a woman tarnished their friendship, according to records obtained by the Tampa Bay Times. Roach moved into another apartment at Glen's Eureka. Parilla later left the complex while evading police on a probation violation, according to court records.
"We were both on the same page," Roach said, but "life put us on different paths."
One day in November while Roach was working, Parilla texted him and said he was going to hang out at Roach's apartment. But Parilla didn't have a key, Roach recalled.
When Roach got home, several items, including a DVD player, clothes and a TV, were missing.
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Roach's account to the Times of what happened on Dec. 21 — his first public statement since the shooting — differs from what he earlier told detectives.
This is his latest story:
A friend dropped off Roach at his apartment after a night out in Tampa. In the parking lot, he noticed a white 2015 Hyundai Elantra he had not seen before. Roach got in his truck and drove to a McDonald's.
When he returned at about 2 a.m., the Hyundai was still there. He walked upstairs to his apartment and then heard arguing. He looked out a window and saw a man downstairs point a gun in his direction.
Alarmed, he grabbed a gun — police later said it was stolen — and rushed downstairs.
Roach initially thought a neighbor had been shot. The Hyundai ran over the man and sped away. Roach said he fired at the car to make it stop. When Roach looked down again, he realized the wounded man was an officer.
He then looked back at the car and saw Parilla behind the wheel.
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Moments later, two other officers arrived.
They pulled open Charles Kondek's uniform shirt and unfastened his bullet-resistant vest. They began CPR as more officers arrived, records show.
Kondek had been shot in the upper chest, just above his vest.
"We were talking to him," Cpl. John Spatz told investigators. "Telling him to hold on."
Paramedics rushed the 45-year-old veteran officer and married father of six one mile away to Florida Hospital North Pinellas, where he died at 3:02 a.m.
At Glen's Eureka, officers cordoned off the building with crime-scene tape.
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Roach said he did not see Parilla shoot Kondek. The Pinellas Sheriff's Office later identified Parilla as the shooter, saying he was at the apartments looking for someone he believed told police about his drug use, leading to his probation violation. Some witnesses told investigators he was looking for Roach, while others said Parilla was asking for Ziamah McGaughy, who also lived there, according to records.
Instead, Parilla encountered Kondek, who was responding to a noise complaint about the Hyundai, in which Evelyn Desiree Santiago, Parilla's friend, was sitting. Parilla shot Kondek because he did not want to go back to prison, authorities said. He remains in jail awaiting trial on a charge of first-degree murder.
When detectives questioned Roach on Dec. 21, he did not tell them he fired his gun.
"I didn't lie. I just left out a few pieces," he said. "I just didn't know how the whole situation was going to play out."
While visiting a friend's house later that day, he saw a news conference about the shooting during which officials said they were looking for him.
The next day, Roach checked into a room at the Royal Palm Inn in New Port Richey. He needed time to think, he said.
"I know I ain't going to run," he told the Times. "You ain't going to get far. They're going to catch you."
He called detectives and said he would turn himself in at the Pinellas Sheriff's Dunedin station. But when he didn't show, about 40 officers visited motels in Pasco County after receiving information Roach was in that area. They found his motel room.
He was arrested on warrants for felon in possession of a firearm and failing to appear in Hillsborough Court on a traffic charge.
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In January, Roach bailed out of the Pinellas County Jail.
He lost his job, and many of his friends stopped calling. Roach spent several weeks looking for employment, but many businesses turned him down because they recognized his name, he said. A month ago, he was hired part time at a Tarpon Springs barber shop, where he cleans and cuts hair.
His firearm case is still pending, court records show. He didn't know Kondek personally but remembers seeing the officer around Tarpon Springs at times.
"Nobody wants to get up in the morning," Roach said, "and go to work to die."
Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727)445-4157. Follow @lauracmorel.