Tampa, Florida -- The man charged with shoplifting from a Tampa Target store entered a guilty plea Monday morning, the day he was to go to trial for the death of a security officer who suffered a heart attack after a four-minute brawl to stop him.
36-year-old Mervin Bettis pleaded guilty to 3rd degree murder. Judge Emmett Battles sentenced him to five years in Florida state prison, followed by five years of probation.
A Target Loss Prevention Agent had caught Bettis in the act, watching him on surveillance camera as he stashed $1,112.90 worth of merchandise in a cooler.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says the agent had been tracking Bettis because he was suspected in other high dollar thefts from other Target stores in the area.
Surveillance video from the Hillsborough Avenue Target store in May of 2011 shows Bettis attempting to walk out of the store with the cooler in a cart when he is grabbed from behind in a bear hug by the agent who was trying to stop him.
Moments later, you can see 65-year-old Russell Horner, a uniformed security guard at the store, rush in to help.
The men struggle for four minutes before the agent and Horner are able to put cuffs on Bettis and bring him back to the store.
Surveillance video later shows Horner get up from a room where Bettis was being held. He collapsed after suffering a heart attack. Horner later died at the hospital.
An autopsy showed the heart attack was due to the heightened exertion during the four minute struggle.