Gay man shot and killed at dog park

TAMPA, FL – Close acquaintances of a Tampa man named John Walter Lay (familiarly known as Walt) insist on seeking justice for his murder. On February 2nd, Lay was shot dead at West Dog Park. The accused, Gerald Declan Radford, has pleaded self-defense in the fatal shooting, a claim strongly disputed by Lay’s loved ones who believe he was targeted for being gay.

Vicki Darlington, a friend of the victim, expressed her shock over the unexpected tragic incident. While no criminal charges have been brought forward currently, Radford maintains his innocence. In a text message to 10 Tampa Bay, he claimed the evidence would corroborate his act as self-defense.

Albert Darlington, another friend of Lay and his landlord, is skeptical of Radford’s claims. Darlington reported that on the day of the shooting, Radford had texted him. The text, accompanied by a picture of Radford’s face, alluded to a defensive encounter with Lay at the park.

Darlington and other friends of Lay allege that Radford consistently harassed Lay with homophobic slurs. To evade Radford, they would congregate in separate sections of the park. However, the harassment persisted. Specific details surrounding the morning of the shooting are yet to be disclosed.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has stated that the investigation is ongoing. Upon completion, the State Attorney’s Office will review the case.

On the eve of his death, Lay recorded an alleged encounter with Radford at the park and shared it with a friend. A distressed Lay can be heard in the video, claiming that the person had threatened him and suggested imminent death, though after requesting to be left alone, the person supposedly complied.

Law professor Jeffrey Swartz from the Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay campus cast doubt on the self-defense claim, stating it didn’t apply in this scenario as the exerted force should be in proportion to the impending attack.

Swartz believes there is enough circumstantial evidence to bring the case before a jury. When asked about the possibility of a hate crime charge, he said, “It clearly was a hate crime…I think he has an animus towards people who are gay.”

There are currently no confirmed witnesses or videos of the shooting incident. Without any direct testimonies to challenge Radford’s account, Swartz noted, the lack of evidence might be advantageous for the accused.

Friends of Lay are determined to memorialize him at the park.