LARGO — Wanted as a first-degree murder suspect in what authorities describe as a drug deal gone bad, Eddie Jonathan Todd Walker has eluded Pinellas sheriff's deputies with what is perhaps an undervalued asset among criminals: his feet.
Walker, a 24-year-old who has been arrested 21 times in Florida, shot and killed Largo resident Terrance Thomas in April after Thomas sold him low-quality cocaine, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Walker was surrounded by more than a dozen deputies and two police dogs at a convenience store on Ulmerton Road last Thursday, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.
He ripped off his shirt, shuffled out of his sandals and ran. Law enforcement has not seen or heard from him since, and the Sheriff's Office is now offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to his arrest, Gualtieri announced to the media Monday morning.
"I'd say he probably could compete with Bolt, the guy in the Olympics. He's fast," Gualtieri said, referring to Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, winner of three gold medals in the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London, which wrapped up Sunday.
Gualtieri said Walker, communicating through attorney Robert Love, had promised to turn himself in over the weekend. That didn't happen.
Instead, Walker, who the sheriff described as "very dangerous," remains at large. "The information we have is that he's always armed," Gualtieri said.
Walker has been arrested previously on charges that include battery of a pregnant woman, carrying a concealed weapon, and multiple charges of fleeing and eluding law enforcement officers, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.
Several witnesses saw Walker argue with Thomas the night of April 5, on Patterson Street in Largo. Gualtieri said Thomas had sold Walker cocaine "cut," or diluted, with an undesirable amount of other substances. The dispute ended when Walker killed Thomas with a single shot, Gualtieri said. He would not disclose what type of gun was used.
Witnesses recently provided information to detectives that led to an arrest warrant, issued Thursday. After the failed effort to capture Walker that night, Gualtieri said, detectives placed a Clearwater apartment complex where they thought he might be hiding under surveillance, but didn't find him.
"We now need help from the public," Gualtieri said.
Gualtieri is running for re-election to his job in today's Republican primary election and is facing a tough challenge from former Pinellas Sheriff Everett Rice. At the press conference, he rejected suggestions that the reward announcement was timed to get a burst of free media attention on the eve of voting.
"I expect there are those out there who will say the timing has to do with tomorrow," Gualtieri said Monday. However, "It's about getting a killer off the streets," he said.
Authorities ask that anyone with information about Walker call (727) 582-8477.
Times staff writer Laura C. Morel and news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.