Sunday, January 21, 2018
Public safety

Tampa police hunt for felon in Family Dollar killing

TAMPA — A 23-year-old felon, released from state prison last year and county jail last month, killed a Family Dollar store manager in a weekend robbery, police said Wednesday.

Tampa police said they are looking for Demetrius L. Parks in the killing of Horsley Shorter Jr., 49, on Sunday morning at the store at 4900 N 40th St. in East Tampa. Parks is wanted on a first-degree murder charge.

Shorter, who had been in the military for two decades before becoming manager of the store, ran out of his office to the aid of a clerk who was being robbed, police said. He was shot and died later at the hospital.

The robbery was caught on store security video that was partly released to the public, and investigators received tips that helped them identify a suspect.

"He has an extensive criminal record," Tampa police Chief Jane Castor said in a news conference Wednesday. "Our belief is he is armed and dangerous at this time."

Castor said there is a $16,000 reward for Parks' capture and conviction — $10,000 donated by the U.S. Marshal's Service, $5,000 from Family Dollar Corp. and $1,000 from Crime Stoppers.

Parks was first arrested in Florida, records show, when he was 14. Tampa police picked him up on a felony battery charge, but records do not show the disposition of that juvenile case.

Afterward, he was arrested on a number of misdemeanor and felony counts including burglary, cocaine and marijuana possession and violation of probation, the records show.

Parks was sentenced to three years in prison on convictions that included carrying a concealed firearm and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He served most of it, records show — from June 2009 to March 2012.

Since then, Castor said, Tampa police have arrested him several times. In all, Tampa police said, Parks has been charged with 37 felonies and 25 misdemeanors but, until now, hasn't been accused of shooting anyone.

His most recent arrest was June 22 on a burglary charge. He was released from jail the next day on $7,500 bail, but did not list an address where he was staying. Recent county and state records show he is homeless.

About three weeks after he got out of jail, police said, Parks entered the Family Dollar and demanded money from a clerk. Shorter came out of his office to confront Parks and was shot.

Police say Parks then forced the clerk outside at gunpoint, where he took the clerk's car and used it to escape. The car was later found abandoned.

Castor confirmed that Parks took money from the store but would not say how much.

Shorter graduated from Tampa Bay Technical High School in 1981. He went by "JR" and served in the military for 20 years. Friends and family called him a hero, saying that he died defending a co-worker.

"He's a pillar of the community," Castor said. "He's seen as a role model in the community."

Castor said that Parks' family is not cooperating with police in the search. Investigators have looked for him near Robles Park and Sulphur Springs, Castor said, and think he is still in the area.

"He knows we are after him," Castor said.

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Charles Scudder can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3111.

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