Hillsborough County
David Gee, Sheriff
Tampa, FL
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    Release Number: 11-328

    • For Immediate Release:
    • Public Information Office of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
    • September 28, 2011
    • Contact Person:
    • Debbie Carter : dcarter@hcso.tampa.fl.us
    • 813/247-8059

    Charges Upgraded To 3rd Degree Felony Murder

    Victim struggled with robbery suspect.
    • Tuesday
    • September 27, 2011
    • Time: 2:00 PM
    • Orient Road Jail


    Russell J. Horne
    DOB: 3-22-46
    Tampa, FL
    Security Guard at Target Store
    11627 W. Hillsborough Avenue


    Mervin Bettis
    DOB: 3-15-76
    4515 North Rome Avenue #201
    Tampa, FL


    • 3rd Degree Felony Murder


    On May 27, 2011, at approximately 4:12 p.m. the defendant Mervin Bettis concealed $1,112.90 worth of merchandise while inside the Target store located at 11627 Hillsborough Avenue West, Tampa. This act was witnessed by another Target Corporation Loss Prevention Agent. That agent had been investigating the defendant reference to previous thefts of merchandise resulting in a high dollar amount from surrounding Target stores. After Melvin Bettis passed the last point of sale with a shopping cart containing the stolen merchandise, the agent attempted to restrain him as he began to exit the store. The defendant began to resist by pulling himself toward the east side entry/exit doors leading to the parking lot. A struggle ensued, causing both the agent and the defendant to fall to the ground.

    The victim, Russell Horner, who is a uniformed Target Security Guard, responded to assist. The victim engaged the defendant and also began struggling with him along with the Loss Prevention Agent. The struggle continued through the east side entry/exit doors, onto the sidewalk near the parking lot, where the defendant continued to pull away from the Target employees. The struggle, which involved ground wrestling, was captured entirely on Target store surveillance. The struggle lasted for approximately 4 minutes until the victim and Loss Prevention Agent were able to apply handcuffs from the victim’s utility belt. The defendant was then escorted to the loss prevention office where he would remain until the arrival of law enforcement. While escorting the defendant to the loss prevention office, the victim was observed having difficulty walking and appeared to be experiencing shortness of breath.

    The victim, who was 65 years old at the time, was observed to be breathing heavily while seated within the loss prevention office. Video surveillance within the loss prevention office showed the victim looking at his right elbow, where he had sustained an abrasion as a result of struggling with the defendant. The loss prevention officer is seen preparing paperwork while Target employees retrieved the merchandise and calculated the exact dollar amount which was removed from the store by the defendant. The victim stood up and proceeded to walk into the adjacent room, off camera, to retrieve some latex gloves. Once he passed through the doorway, the victim collapsed upon the floor. The approximate length of time from the beginning of the struggle to the point of where the victim collapsed, was 7 ½ minutes. The loss prevention agent stood up and walked into the adjacent room to check on the victim moments later, finding him unresponsive. Immediate assistance was called and CPR was done until the arrival of EMS.

    The victim was transported to Town and Country hospital was he was subsequently pronounced dead at approximately 5:04 p.m. The defendant was placed under arrest for Robbery and Battery on a person 65 years of age or older.

    An autopsy was performed on the victim and the cause of death was noted as Atherosclerotic and Hypertensive Heart Disease. It is believed that the cardiac event occurred due to the heightened physical exertion during the intense four minute struggle with the defendant.

    On September 27, 2011 the charges were upgraded to Third Degree Felony Murder.

    Because the victim is retired law enforcement, his address is exempt from public record.

  • Sheriff David Gee
    Sheriff David Gee
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