ST. PETERSBURG — One word tumbled out of Demetrius Jordan over and over again as his family visited him Thursday in jail.
"He kept saying he's sorry," said his father, Homer Jordan. "He's sorry for what he did."
Jordan was drunk, high and speeding, according to St. Petersburg police, when he ran a red light Sunday and rammed a car driven by an Orlando father and his three sons.
Killed instantly in the crash were Elroy McConnell, 51, and sons Elroy III, 28; Nathan, 24; and Kelly, 19. They collectively left behind three wives, two young children and a girlfriend.
Jordan was released from a hospital Tuesday with a broken leg and taken to the Pinellas County Jail, where he is being held on four counts of DUI manslaughter.
His family wasn't allowed to visit him at the hospital. He's been under arrest since the crash and was a prisoner at Bayfront Medical Center. Pinellas deputies couldn't even let the family speak to their son as he was wheeled past them on his way out of the hospital.
In a way, the Jordans still can't visit him. Pinellas jail prisoners can only speak to their families via video monitors and telephone handsets. They cannot be in the same room together.
The McConnell family said this week that they want to see Jordan held accountable for the crash, but that they also want to forgive him. That message was finally delivered on Thursday.
"He teared up every time it came up," the father said. "We explained to him that they forgave him, and he needed to hear that. Feeling the way he's feeling, I just want to make sure his mind's okay so that he doesn't try to hurt himself.
"But he still feels sorry. His heart goes out to them."
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Demetrius Dontae Jordan, 20, is the second oldest of four, his family said. He has two brothers and a sister.
He attended Riviera Middle school and St. Petersburg High School, where he played on the marching band's drum line. He gave drum lessons to children at Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church.
He was enrolled at St. Petersburg College. He was taking prerequisite classes to enter the mortuary sciences program. It prepares student to become morticians or to work at funeral homes.
Until Sunday, according to state records, he had never been arrested in Florida. But he did have a spotty driving record.
In two years and two months, county records show, he was cited for following too closely, improper backing, improperly tinted vehicle windows and running a stop sign.
His license was suspended in 2008 for failing to pay a citation. It was about to be suspended again for failing to pay the ticket he got in June for running a stop sign, according to state officials.
"He wouldn't hurt a fly," the father said. "He's so humble, and he has so much respect for people.
"But he made the wrong choices, and my heart goes out to the family."
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The father, Homer Jordan, 51, is a former St. Petersburg city employee. He said he's disabled now after being injured on the job and receiving a knee replacement.
He's also battling cancer, the father said. A tumor was found in his lower back five months ago. He is undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.
The mother, Alice Jordan, recently resigned from the 22nd Street Redevelopment Corporation, Inc., to concentrate on her family, the father said. The group's website listed her as president.
The father said that his son's passenger in Sunday's crash, cousin Mario Robinson, 20, has regained consciousness after undergoing surgery at Bayfront.
Homer Jordan offered his family's condolences and apologies to the McConnell family. He said he intends to personally contact the family, but doesn't believe now is the right time.
His family is doing the best they can, he said, knowing the seriousness of the allegations — and the unremitting public hostility — their son now faces.
"I'm just holding on," the father said. "We're just trying to hold onto each other. I have other kids. I have to make sure they're okay.
"But as a father I have to be supportive of Demetrius."
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Jamal Thalji can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8472.