The pizza delivery driver who shot a man whom he said threatened him with a knife over the weekend is a former West Melbourne police officer, law enforcement officials said Monday as new details emerged about the fatal shooting.
Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports Bryon Park, 54, told investigators he was sitting in his car after delivering a pizza to a room at the Days Inn on West New Haven near Interstate 95 shortly before midnight Friday.
Fredrick Lorenza Kelly Jr., 32, approached Park with a “large knife” and threatened him through the open window of the car, according to Brevard County Sheriff’s Major Tod Goodyear. Park, who has a concealed weapons permit, stalled the man for a moment then shot him once with a semi-automatic pistol in the “upper torso.”
Local law enforcement officials confirmed Monday that Park was a former West Melbourne officer. West Melbourne City Clerk Cynthia Hanscom said a man named Bryon Park worked there from November 1988 to March 1998.
The city fired him in March 1998 after Police Chief Brian Lock said he lied during an inquiry about another officer’s call to the Astrological Society psychic hot line during work hours, according to court records. Park sued the city and after 10 years of legal wrangling, the 5th District Court of Appeal determined in 2009 that he should have been reinstated with back pay in September 1998. As part of a settlement, the city agreed to pay Park $262,500.
Goodyear said investigators haven’t found any eyewitnesses to the Friday night shooting, but evidence seems to support Park’s version of events. He said the case likely will be turned over to the State Attorney’s Office for review.
Kelly was released from prison in 2009 following his conviction on three counts of armed robbery. Goodyear said investigators interviewed people close to Kelly and believe he was in need of money and was at the motel with the intention of robbing someone.
“Preliminary evidence in the case demonstrates that the intended victim of the robbery acted in self-defense while being robbed by a violent criminal who was armed with a knife,” Sheriff Wayne Ivey said in a release.
Domino’s corporate policy prohibits employees from carrying guns. But that policy didn’t apply in this case since Park worked for an independently operated Domino’s, said Tim McIntyre, vice president of corporate communications for the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company. Police records show Park worked at 575 South Wickham Road in Melbourne.
Neither the store owner nor Park could be reached for comment on Monday.
“We tell our drivers to hand over the pizza and money and let the robber on his way, as resistance can sometimes result in a tragedy,” McIntyre told FLORIDA TODAY on Monday.
“Clearly, though, there are gray areas, as weapons laws vary by state, and based on media reports, including the fact that no charges were filed against the driver at this point, it appears he violated no laws in Florida,” he said.
Many employers have long banned guns from the workplace as part of a violence-prevention strategy, but those policies routinely are being tested as states pass laws making it easier for residents to carry concealed guns.
As of July 1, 2008, Florida passed a law that prohibits most businesses from firing employees for keeping a legal firearm locked in their vehicles in a company parking lot if they have a concealed weapon license.
Food-delivery employees are sometimes viewed as targets by criminals because the latter know they’re carrying money and food. And it’s often later in the evening.
McIntyre said Domino’s provides its drivers with safety and security training.
“There are many elements that go into that training, such as how to spot a suspicious order, what to do if you go to an address and it appears to be a vacant house, and more,” McIntyre said. “From the media reports I’ve seen, this appears to have been a legitimate order and the driver was confronted after the fact.”
Arthur Hayhoe of the Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said his position is that “guns and business don’t mix.” Hayhoe is an outspoken critic of the National Rifle Association.
Hayhoe, given the details of the Friday shooting, didn’t back off from that position.
“You can find a lot of situations where a gun might save you life,” Hayhoe said, “and you can find situations where it doesn’t. So where are we?”