Mar 8, 2024 - News

Man arrested in Tampa dog park shooting, faces hate crime charge

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Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office arrested a man on a second-degree murder charge Friday in the February shooting death of John Walter Lay at Tampa's West Dog Park.

Why it matters: The arrest comes after Lay's loved ones told the Tampa Bay Times that shooter Gerald Declan Radford had harassed, threatened and lobbed homophobic insults at Lay for months.

Zoom in: Radford told law enforcement that he shot Lay in self-defense. Deputies did not have "enough evidence" then to conclude otherwise, per a press release.

  • "After analyzing the evidence, it was clear that this man acted from hatred within his heart," Sheriff Chad Chronister said Friday.
  • The State Attorney's Office said it would seek a hate crime enhancement.

What they're saying: "Today, as we reflect on Walt's life and the tragedy of his untimely death, we are reminded of the urgency of our mission and the importance of unity in our community," Equality Florida said in a statement.

  • "We stand together, demanding change and a return to values that protect and preserve life, not endanger it."
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