Polk sheriff to online killer: ‘Hey Mr. Murderer… we’re going to find you’

Shooting victim Jeff Morrow Jr., Facebook photo
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The Family Dollar at 1135 S. Combee Rd. in Lakeland.

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is known for saying what’s on his mind. On Tuesday morning, he had a tough message for a murder suspect who’s on the run.

“Hey Mr. Murderer,” Judd said, “You have made your last purchase, or one of your last. We’re going to find you.”

Judd was speaking to the unidentified suspect who shot and killed Jeffrey Morrow Jr., 21, on Sunday night.  Morrow went with his friend Blake Fitez, 22, to sell an item that had been advertised online. The pair met the buyer in the parking lot of the Family Dollar, 1135 S. Combee Rd., Lakeland around 9:30 p.m. According to Sheriff Grady Judd, the buyer, had the item in his hand and was rummaging through his pocket like he was reaching for money, but instead, took off with the item without paying.

Morrow and Fitez chased after the man. Morrow pulled out a shotgun and shouted that he had a gun. The suspect also pulled out a gun and shot and killed Morrow.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office would not disclose what the item was, but confirmed it was a legitimate item, being sold for $450.

The suspect was described as a black male in his 20s. He was wearing a white or light gray zipped up hooded jacket, a red shirt, and white sneakers. The suspect was last seen running through the Marathon Gas station parking lot just north of the Family Dollar.

“Hey Mr. Murderer,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said during a news conference Tuesday, “You have made your last purchase, or one of your last. We’re going to find you.”

If you have information about this investigation, call the PCSO at 863-298-6200. To remain anonymous and be eligible for a CASH REWARD contact Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS (8477).

The sheriff also offered safety advice for anyone who buys or sells items online and will be meeting a stranger to conduct the transaction.

“When someone wants to buy something at night, you should be suspicious. It is not just buyer beware these days, it is also seller beware,” Sheriff Judd said. “When selling stuff please meet during the day, in a public place.”

The online site involved in this case has not been revealed by the Sheriff’s Office.

Online sites for buying and selling are incredibly popular. These safety rules should be followed:

  • Never reveal and personal information, including a home address. That means you should never meet at your home. If you’re selling furniture, it might be worth it to charge a little more for delivery.
  • If you’re using a Facebook sales group, deal only with people you know, or are acquaintances of those you know.
  • Don’t use your personal email. Set up an email account for your sales transactions.
  • Meeting in a public place is important, but add an extra layer of protection. Police departments are open 24-7. Consider meeting in the parking lot.
  • Tell someone what you’re doing, and have a trusted friend or family member accompany you.
  • Keep your cell phone in hand during the entire transaction.
  • Don’t pay in cash. Use a cashier’s check instead. For high-priced transactions, meet at a bank.
  • Meeting in a public place is important, but you can add an extra layer of protection and meet in the parking lot of a police department, which is open 24-7.

Tampa Bay law enforcement agencies have created safe spaces for people to conduct online transactions. The spaces are often located in a well-lit parking lot of a police agency with surveillance monitoring. “Safe Place” areas are located in the following communities:

Hillsborough County

  • HCSO Patrol District parking lot at 14102 N. 20th St.
  • HCSO Patrol District parking lot at 2310 N. Falkenburg Rd.
  • HCSO Patrol District parking lot at 7202 Gunn Highway
  • HCSO Patrol District parking lot at 508 33rd. St.

Manatee County

  • MCSO parking lot at 600 301 Blvd W., in Bradenton.

Pinellas County

  • There is no officially designated space, however residents can use the Sheriff’s Office lobby to conduct transactions. The PSCO is located at 10750 Ulmerton Rd. in Largo. A North District Office is located at 737 Louden Ave. in Dunedin.’

Polk County

  • There is no officially designated space, however residents can go inside county buildings during regular business hours to conduct transactions. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is located at 1891 Jim Keene Blvd., in Winter Haven.

Sarasota County

  • There is no officially designated space, however residents can go inside county buildings during regular business hours to conduct transactions.

Pasco County

  • There is no officially designated space, however a sheriff’s office spokesperson says officials are discussing the possibility of providing one in the future. The sheriff’s office also recommends that residents use the lobby or other county buildings during regular business hours to conduct transactions.

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