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Florida man charged with hate crime after killing a gay man in a dog park

John Walter Lay video diary confession dog park harrasement Gerald Declan Radford mugshot
FOOTAGE STILL VIA ABC NEWS WFTS TAMPA BAY; Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

Authorities have explained why it took prosecutors weeks to bring charges against Gerald Declan Radford who is accused of killing John Walter Lay.

The Florida man who claimed he was acting in self-defense when he fatally shot a gay man in a dog park last month has been arrested and charged with murder and a hate crime.

Gerald Declan Radford, 65, was taken into custody on Friday and charged with second-degree murder with a hate crime enhancement for the killing of 52-year-old John Walter Lay at the West Dog Park in Tampa on February 2.

Lay was shot and killed while walking his dog, Roxy.

Radford called 911 and remained at the scene with police. He told investigating officers he had shot Lay in self-defense following an altercation between the two men.

Friends and acquaintances of the men doubted Radford’s claim, claiming the two had initially been friends until the alleged killed discovered Lay was gay. They say Radford relentlessly harassed and threatened Lay for years because of his sexual identity.

Hours before he was gunned down, Lay sent a video to friends detailing one of those alleged threats to kill him he had received that morning from Radford.

“You’re gonna die,” Lay claimed Radford told him.

Albert Darlington, 68, said he was Lay’s friend and landlord. He recalled several incidents where Radford abused and threatened Lay, and said he doesn’t believe Radford acted to defend himself.

“In my opinion, there’s no way in hell this is really self-defense,” Darlington told the Tampa Bay Timeslast month. “For over a year, Dec [Radford] has done nothing but harass Walt [Lay]. He screams and hollers and calls him a f*gg*t every time he gets to the dog park. He’ll sit there and he’ll say, ‘I’d like to punch him right in the f*ck*ng mouth.’”

While friends slammed the delay in arresting Radford, police said they conducted a thorough investigation to ensure his actions did not qualify as self-defense under the state’s ‘stand your ground’ laws.

“This case is an example of our detectives’ commitment to seeking justice and uncovering the truth,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement announcing the arrest. “They did not let those initial statements derail them from staying focused on this investigation.”

Lay’s sister, Sabrena Hughes, told local Fox affiliate WTVT that Radford’s arrest was welcome news because it exonerates her brother and removes a dangerous man from the streets.

“There is no sentence that’s gonna restore my brother’s life. But if this person has that type of hatred and can act out on it, keeping him in jail will hopefully save someone else's life,” Hughes said.

Lay’s dog, Roxy, has been rehomed with friends in the area and still regularly visits the dog park.

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