Advertisement
  1. News

Suspect charged in Tarpon Springs police officer's slaying (w/video)

Marco Antonio Parilla Jr., 23, is escorted into the Pinellas County Jail after being arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder. Tarpon Springs police Officer Charles Kondek was fatally shot while investigating a complaint about a loud car stereo in a neighborhood near Spring Bayou. Watch the video: Parilla is brought to jail; watch at tampabay.com/video.
Published Dec. 22, 2014

TARPON SPRINGS — It was a routine call, a car stereo blaring at 2 a.m. Sunday.

Officer Charles Kondek, a veteran of the overnight shift, was the first to respond to the small apartment building in Tarpon Springs.

Moments later, he lay dying in the parking lot, shot in the chest and run over as the suspect sped away.

The shooter, Marco Antonio Parilla Jr., was caught after a short car chase, investigators said. The 23-year-old with an extensive criminal record including 30 felony charges was wanted for violating probation and told investigators he didn't want to go back to prison. He faces a first-degree murder charge.

"He said his reason for shooting the officer was because he felt like a caged rat," said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. "He's going back to prison, which is where he belongs. He had absolutely no reason to take a police officer's life."

Kondek, who spent 17 years with the Police Department, leaves behind a wife and six children. He's the first Tarpon Springs officer shot to death in nearly 90 years.

"Charlie was just a great guy, a standout cop who came in every day and did his job," said Tarpon Springs police Chief Robert Kochen. "He served most of his career on the midnight shift, away from his family, allowing citizens to sleep peacefully in their beds because he faced the danger for them."

• • •

Parilla came to the apartment building looking for a snitch.

He thought someone had "dimed him out," Gualtieri said, informing police about drug activity that led to his probation violation charges.

He and a girlfriend drove in to Glen's Eureka Apartments, a small building at 199 Grand Blvd., shortly after 2 a.m. The buildings, where Parilla once lived, are just northeast of Spring Bayou, the site of Tarpon Springs' annual Epiphany celebration in early January.

Loud music blared from their white Hyundai Elantra. A resident called police to complain.

Parilla banged on the doors of his former neighbors. He was walking back to the Hyundai when he encountered Officer Kondek.

"He saw the officer," Gualtieri said. "He knew he was a convicted felon, knew he had a warrant out on him, knew he was going back to prison for a long time."

Parilla fired seven shots from his .40-caliber handgun, the sheriff said. One bullet struck the officer in the upper chest, above his bullet-resistant vest, and hit his spine.

Kondek fired two gunshots at Parilla before collapsing. Parilla pulled his friend, Evelyn Santiago, out of the car. He got into the car and backed over Kondek, according to authorities.

At that point, another resident of the apartment building, Jareem Roach, fired five rounds at the Hyundai, apparently believing that Parilla had been coming after him. Authorities were looking for Roach on Sunday.

Parilla sped off. Other officers arrived to find Kondek unconscious and barely breathing. One performed CPR until paramedics arrived.

Rachel Delk, one of the building's residents, heard Parilla banging on doors, then heard numerous gunshots. When she looked outside, paramedics were working on the officer.

"It was very scary … it's just kind of surreal," Delk said. "You always see that kind of stuff on TV, not in front of your face."

Kondek was rushed to Florida Hospital North Pinellas, where he died.

• • •

It was closing time at the Sponge Docks bars, and Tarpon Springs resident Tommy Mahinis was standing in the street with friends by Zorba's Greek Nightclub when he saw the white Hyundai barrelling down Athens Street.

Tires screeching, the car rammed into a power pole at Athens and Cross streets in the city's Sponge Docks tourist district. The car fishtailed and plowed into the back of a Ford truck belonging to Mahinis' friend.

Seconds later, the man inside opened the door and darted away. Mahinis said his instinct was to chase him.

"I had no idea what he had just done, but you hit my buddy's brand new truck and you're gonna get it," he said.

Mahinis followed the man up Athens and watched him turn left on Cross Street. Almost immediately, uniformed officers funneled in beside him. They found the man hiding beneath a wooden staircase and arrested him, Mahinis said.

"He kept lipping off," Mahinis said.

• • •

Parilla served a three-year sentence for charges including selling cocaine and marijuana, trafficking in stolen property and leaving the scene of a crash involving an injury before he was released in March, according to Florida corrections records.

He previously lived in Tampa and Gibsonton, and was arrested in Hillsborough County five times on numerous felony charges from 2009 to 2011 before landing prison, according to jail records.

As he was being led into the Pinellas County Jail, Parilla told reporters: "I apologize to the family. That was not my intention."

The sheriff scoffed at that.

"It's all a bunch of nonsense," Gualtieri said. "This guy knew what he was doing. He killed a cop, and he needs to be held accountable for that."

Kondek, who spent five years as a New York City police officer before moving to Florida, is the first Tarpon Springs officer shot and killed in the line of duty since 1926, said Joe Voskerichian, executive director of the Gold Shield Foundation, a charity that assists the families of officers killed on duty. The last time a Tarpon officer died while on duty was in an automobile accident in 1969, he said.

It is the first death of an officer in the line of duty in the Tampa Bay area in nearly four years. St. Petersburg police Officer David Crawford was the most recent officer shot to death in the Tampa Bay area when he was killed by a teenager he was trying to question in February 2011.

• • •

As a crime scene technician photographed the location of the shooting, Kondek's equipment lay scattered on the street, including a service weapon, bulletproof vest and police radio.

The sheriff and police chief met with Kondek's family.

"It's devastating," said Tarpon Spring police Chief Robert Kochen. "… Charlie was a great guy.

"We are really proud of him and he will truly be missed."

At the Tarpon Springs police station Sunday, residents dropped off bouquets of flowers to memorialize Kondek.

Rickie and Carolyn Barnes, who live near the crime scene, were jolted awake early Sunday by the piercing crack of gunshots, then the sound of tires squealing. Sirens blared and helicopters circled for nearly an hour.

The scene is familiar to them. They walk that street every day.

"It's just quiet and friendly. The neighbors are great," Carolyn said. "It's just hard to believe."

Times researcher John Martin and photographer Douglas R. Clifford contributed to this report. Contact staff writer Laura C. Morel at lmorel@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4157.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. FILE  - In this Aug. 28, 2019, file photo, a man exhales while smoking an e-cigarette in Portland, Maine. Walmart says it will stop selling electronic cigarettes at its namesake stores and Sam's Clubs following a string of illnesses and deaths related to vaping.  The nation's largest retailer said Friday, Sept. 20 that it will complete its exit from e-cigarettes after selling through current inventory. It cited growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity regarding vaping products. ROBERT F. BUKATY  |  AP
    The nation’s largest retailer said Friday that it will complete its exit from e-cigarettes after selling through current inventory.
  2. The city is accepting applications for its Commercial Revitalization Program. The city has allocated $175,000 for the program this year.
  3. Plans for the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District Board of Commissioners referendum March 12 call for a $100 increase in the annual assessment for single-family units. Tom Germond
    The winner will fill the seat of a board member who moved.
  4. The Florida Association of Museums has named St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman its Outstanding Public Official for 2019.
    The organization recognizes those who contribute to the museum profession.
  5. Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, urges the Florida Board of Education to hold schools accountable for teaching the Holocaust and African-American history, as required by lawmakers in 1994. The board was considering a rule on the matter at its Sept. 20, 2019, meeting in Jacksonville. The Florida Channel
    School districts will have to report how they are providing the instruction required in Florida law.
  6. The Walmart supercenter at 990 Missouri Ave. faced fines in December for these storage containers in the parking lot. City officials are debating whether to make a short-term arrangement with the city two’s Largo stores this year so they can store their holiday inventory. City of Largo
    In the end, city commissioners say yes, with some reservations.
  7. A man holds an inflatable alien at an entrance to the Nevada Test and Training Range near Area 51 Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, near Rachel, Nev. People gathered at the gate inspired by the "Storm Area 51" internet hoax. JOHN LOCHER  |  AP
    A man who was urinating near the gate was arrested and a woman was detained for an undisclosed reason, Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said.
  8. Lifeguards rescue children from a minivan that their mother drove into the Atlantic on Tuesday in Daytona Beach. Ebony Wilkerson, 31, inset, a pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan carrying her three young children into the ocean surf off Florida had talked about demons before leaving the house, according to a sister who worriedly called police, officials said during a news conference Wednesday.
    Volusia County Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano on Thursday allowed 38-year-old Ebony Wilkerson to leave Daytona Beach.
  9. The Pasco County school district would rezone the Seven Oaks subdivision from the Wiregrass Ranch High feeder pattern to the Cypress Creek High feeder pattern, beginning in the 2020-21 school year. Pasco County school district
    The Seven Oaks subdivision is the primary target for rezoning.
  10. Commander John Christensen of the cutter Seneca says the “downrange counter-drug operations are a vital component to the Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security’s mission and our national security.” Photo from video/WPLG Local 10
    The crews patrolling in the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Mexico and Central and South American made dozens of interdictions.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement