TAMPA — Reggie Holland, 55, has known his next-door neighbor Tom Parks since Holland was a kid, having grown up in the same house in the 500 block of W Ross Avenue.
"He's a very happy-go-lucky man — the kind of neighbor you need to have nowadays," Holland said of the 87-year-old Parks, a veteran of World War II. "We try to look out for each other."
Late Sunday night, Holland's concern for his neighbor's well-being thwarted a home invasion and possibly saved the old man from further harm.
About 11:24 p.m., Holland said he heard Parks get out of his car and open the back door to his house. Then he heard a scream and the door slammed shut.
He phoned Parks but got no answer, so he called police.
Minutes later, officers surrounded the house and made their way inside, where they arrested John Edward Harris, 44, on charges of home invasion, armed kidnapping and battery on a victim over age 65.
Parks was entering his home when Harris approached him from behind, pulled a knife and beat him, according to police.
When officers arrived, Harris ran through the house trying to find a way out, police said. Officers found cash and Parks' diamond ring in Harris' pocket.
Parks, who has knee problems from arthritis and walks with two canes, his neighbor said, broke his right hip during the struggle and suffered cuts to his face. He was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he underwent surgery, police said.
It was the third time in nearly as many weeks that Parks has been the target of a burglary.
His home was broken into on Sept. 22 and 24, said police spokeswoman Andrea Davis.
"We are investigating if this same suspect may have been involved in the two burglaries," Davis said.
Holland said Parks told him the same man had been targeting him. "He'd been watching Mr. Tom," Holland said.
On Sept. 24, Parks had arrived home to find a man breaking into his home, Holland said. When Parks questioned him, the man claimed that he had seen a different man breaking into the home and had scared him away.
Parks purchased a security system after the first two incidents but turned it off as he entered the house Sunday night.
He has lived alone since his wife died many years ago. After that, the Holland family made a weekly tradition of bringing dinner to Parks on Sunday nights.
Parks, too, would bring his neighbors food and other gifts. At Christmas, the families exchanged Christmas cards. Holland would take Parks' garbage to the street and retrieve his morning paper for him.
The neighborhood sits just across the N Boulevard bridge from downtown Tampa.
"It's real quiet here other than this guy pickin' on Mr. Tom," Holland said.
Dan Sullivan can be reached at (813) 226-3321 or [email protected]