HCSO: violent suspect pistol-whipped worker at farmer's market, on the run in Plant City

Jose Esparza wanted for armed home invasion
Posted at 11:29 PM, Apr 18, 2017

Hillsborough County deputies are searching for a man they say is terrorizing people in Plant City. 

Jose Alberto Esparza is wanted for several violent crimes, including aggravated assault.  Detectives believe he's responsible for an armed home invasion robbery last month on Northview Road in south Plant City. 

ABC Action News spoke with the latest victim who survived a violent beating while working at his produce stand last week at the Plant City Farmer's Market. 

"I'm still afraid. For me, for my family."

We're not releasing the identity of the victim because he fears Esparza will come after him again.  

The victim tells ABC Action News, Esparza complained about the victim's truck blocking a produce stand.  When a worker went to move the truck, Esparza reportedly grabbed the employee and threw him to the ground. 

The victim pulled out his cell phone to record Esparza's actions on video.  A search warrant states that Esparza then armed himself with a semi-automatic pistol and pointed it at the victim and asked, "Are you recording me."

Esparza then snatched the victim's phone from his hand and smashed it on the ground. 

The warrant states that Esparza pistol-whipped the victim several times on top of his head causing lacerations that required stitches. 

"When I come to work, I don't feel good," said the victim.  "I'm always watching around because I never know, maybe they come again."

"We need him off the street before he kills somebody," said Larry McKinnon, with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.  "The way he's been in the past, there's no doubt that he's capable of doing that."

The victim's wife hopes law enforcement can track Esparza down and put an end to the wanted man's spree of violent acts. 

"Whoever knows this guy or sees who this guy is, we have to work together and make sure that this person goes to jail and pays for whatever he does."

Anyone with information on this suspect's whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477).