Valrico State Bank RobberA local citizen who works at DaSilva’s Coffee House & Roastery, located at 15282 FishHawk Blvd., stopped a bank robber in his tracks in early October.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the suspect, Jeffery Gordon Merritt, wearing a striped polo shirt, entered the Valrico State Bank and removed a handgun from a cooler bag and demanded money from the teller. After the suspect obtained an undisclosed amount of cash, he fled the bank into the parking lot.
Once outside the bank, about 100 ft. away, a bank employee followed the suspect into the parking lot and, along with a private citizen, tackled the suspect and restrained him until law enforcement arrived. The sheriff’s Office is not releasing the name of the citizen because she is a witness and is also former law enforcement.
Merritt was unemployed at the time of the robbery and was living at 9411 Chalet Dr., Apt. 1408, in Tampa. Merritt is believed to be involved with two other robberies in Pinellas County. He is still currently occupying a jail cell, and a court date has not yet been set for him.
Debbie Carter, public information officer for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, said that the Sheriff’s Office does not encourage citizens to get physically involved in the prevention of a crime because it does not want the citizen to endanger themselves in any way. Instead, she says, “We encourage citizens to get a good description, direction of travel, tag numbers and vehicle descriptions, anything that would assist in the investigation.”
Carter said that every year, there are numerous citizens that assist law enforcement with descriptions of suspects or suspicious behavior.
“It is difficult to say that the citizen did the right thing since we do not encourage it,” Carter said. “But, in this case everything worked out great.”
For more information, visit the Hillsborough County’s Website at or call 247-8200.

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Jennifer is the Assistant Editor at the Osprey Observer, having climbed the corporate ladder from intern in 2007. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications. She lives in Channing Park with her husband, Eric, and their two dogs.