A Tarpon Springs police officer was shot and killed overnight, and a man convicted killer wanted for violating his probation has been charged with first-degree murder.
Veteran officer Charles "Charlie K" Kondek was fatally shot sometime after 2 a.m. near 199 Grand Blvd., a few blocks from the city's Sponge Docks. He was a father of six and former New York City policeman.
According to investigators, a second shooting occurred on Athens Street, where the shooter, identified as 23-year-old Marco Antonio Parilla Jr., fled in a white Hyundai Elantra. Parilla crashed into a power pole and snapped it and then crashed into a pickup truck, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Cecila Barreda said.
The Tarpon Springs Police Department released the officer's name on its Facebook page about nine hours after the shooting, saying "our hearts and prayers go out to the Kondek Family and our deepest sympathy."
Parilla was arrested and taken to the Pinellas County Jail. After questioning, he was escorted to jail and apologized to Kondek's family, saying he didn't intend for any of this to happen.
Residents from all over have paid their respect to Kondek by leaving cards and flowers by his patrol car.
"He always took time off to go to the special events with his kids," said Kondek's former coworker Shawn Prince. "He was really a family guy, that was for sure."
"My heart goes out to his family, both personal and professional," said resident Linda Flowers. "What can you say to them? Things have got to change in America. Things just have to change."
Honored by community
A procession took place through downtown Clearwater as Kondek was taken from the hospital.
At a press conference Sunday, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Parilla has an extensive criminal record including nearly 30 felony arrests, and 15 misdemeanor arrests. Parilla was released from prison in March.
"His reasoning was because he said he felt like a caged rat," Gualtieri said. "He should never have been on the streets to begin with."
Tarpon Springs Chief of Police Robert Kochen remembered Kondek as a person who was committed to his department and the community.
"As chief of police, I hoped I would never face such a day, a day that I would face the public to advice the loss of Tarpon Springs police officer," Kochen said. "We grieve for the community that lost a hero but with that grieving we have to have resolve, we have to move on, we have to heal. That's what we do. When one of our own goes down, it doesn't matter what badge you wear, people come and help."
Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie also spoke briefly after Kochen, expressing his condolences to Kondek's family and the community.
"This is one of the saddest days to me in my history here in Tarpon Springs," Archie said. "I just want to let the family know we stand with them. Our prayers and my prayers personally is with the family.
"We will stand strong, we will face this tragedy and I'm just thankful that we have the support of so many men and women that give up themselves every day."
Incident started with a noise complaint call
Gualtieri said Kondek responded to the area around 2 a.m. in response to a noise complaint that came from a resident at the Glen's Eureka apartment complex.
The resident who called police reported a white Hyundai parked outside of the complex with music blaring. He said when he asked the woman sitting inside the car to turn the music down, she "flipped him off."
Before the call, Gualtieri said, Parilla and the woman in the car, Evelyn Desiree Santiago, were at a party in Holiday and came to the complex to confront a resident whom Parilla believed had reported he violated his probation.
Parilla, who used to live in the complex, banged on the doors of two apartments, but was unable to locate the person he was looking for, Gualtieri said.
“When he knocked on our door, he was really pissed off about something,” neighbor Racheal Delk said.
Meanwhile, one of the residents noticed a gun in Parilla's waistband and called police.
Kondek, who was at the scene at the time, saw something within minutes of arriving that made him call for back up.
Gualtieri said that's when Parilla began walking to the car and fired a .40 caliber handgun at Kondek, striking him in the upper chest.
Parilla then fled the scene and put the car in reverse, backing up over Kondek, Gualtieri said.
Caught after pursuit and crash
At the same time, one of the residents from the apartment complex, Jareem Roach, fired his 9mm handgun at Parilla as he tries to flee.
Gualtieri said Roach, who also has a warrant out for his arrest, believed Parilla was at the complex to get him.
"We've got a triangle of people thinking they are each out to get each other, and they all have guns," Gualtieri said.
After Parilla flees the scene, he headed north on Grand Boulevard and engages in a brief pursuit with two other Tarpon Springs police officers before crashing into a power pole on Athens Street.
Parilla ran, but was eventually taken into custody, Gualtieri said.
Kondek, who was barely breathing once additional officers arrived at the scene, was transported to Florida Hospital North Pinellas, where he later died.
“I was out there when they were trying to resuscitate the cop, and unfortunately it didn’t look like he was going to make it,” Delk said.
"He had no reason to do this, absolutely no reason to take a police officer's life," Gualtieri said.
Kondek, 45, was a 17-year veteran of the department who worked many years on the midnight shift, officials said. Originally from New York, he spent five years as an officer with the New York City Police Department before moving to Florida. His wife works for the Pasco County Clerk's office.
He is the fourth officer killed in the line of duty in Tarpon Springs history. The last was Lanny Langford, who died in a crash on Nov. 18, 1969.
Before that, Everett Blewfield was killed by gunfire in 1926 and Marshal Rueben Jones was killed by gunfire in 1921.
Local politicians share their condolences
Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Sunday issued the following statement on the tragic shooting of Tarpon Springs Police Officer Charles “Charlie K” Kondek:
“Like the rest of the community, I remain stunned and saddened by the tragic shooting of Tarpon Springs Police Officer Charles "Charlie K" Kondek. I have spoken to both Tarpon Springs Chief Robert Kochen and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and offered them any assistance my office could provide. As a member of this community and the father of four sons, I cannot even begin to fathom the grief Officer Kondek's family is contending with,” Bilirakis said.
“We are Tarpon Strong and I know the community will rise to the occasion by providing the Kondek family and Tarpon Springs Police Department the comfort they need during this difficult time. Please keep in your thoughts all law enforcement officers who, on a daily basis, are dutifully willing to risk their lives to serve and protect. We are so appreciative of their commitment. And, also pray for Officer Kondek and the fallen law enforcement officers of the New York Police Department. May their memories be eternal and their lives a blessing.”
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio issued the following statement regarding the killing of police officers in Tarpon Springs and New York City:
“Earlier today my wife and I were saddened to hear of the killing of Tarpon Springs police officer Charles Kondek, just hours after the nation was shocked by the horrific murder of two NYPD officers. These killings are stark and somber reminders of the risks our men and women in law enforcement take each and every day to keep us and our families safe.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the fallen, the men and women of the Tarpon Springs and New York Police Departments, and with the brave men and women of law enforcement across the country who continue their work today undaunted and undeterred. As we should every day, I thank them for the courage and sacrifices they and their families make in the service of our communities.”
On Sunday, Congressman David Jolly tweeted the following posts regarding the killing of Kondek:
"I'm saddened by the loss of Tarpon Springs Police Officer Charles Kondek, a man who dedicated his life to serving and protecting others.
"My heartfelt condolences go out to Officer Kondek's family and loved ones."