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Alleged homophobe not charged after killing gay man in a Florida dog park

John Walter Lay video diary confession Adam Walser journalist news investigator sidewalk Gerald Declan Radford walking dog
footage stills via abc action news WFTS Tampa Bay

The shooter claimed self-defense, but the victim and his friends reported months of antigay threats and abuse.

The Florida man who admitted to fatally shooting a gay man in a dog park last week claims he was only defending himself, but the victim’s friends say the killer was a homophobe who threatened to kill the victim one day earlier.

John Walter Lay, 52, was shot and killed while walking his dog Roxy at the West Dog Park in Tampa. Hours before he was gunned down, he sent a video to friends detailing a threat to kill him he had received that morning from the suspected gunman, Gerald Declan Radford. Radford, 65, admitted he shot Lay but claimed he did so in self-defense in a text message to the Tampa Bay Times.

“I was attacked. I defended myself. End of story,” Radford told the Times.

However, Lay’s friends are calling Radford a liar and claim he’d been harassing the victim over the past months because he was gay.

Albert Darlington, 68, said he was Lay’s friend and landlord. He recalled several incidents where Gerald Declan Radford, 65, 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 Times. “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.’”

In the chilling video made by Lay the day before he was killed, he recalls an incident from moments earlier where he claims he was threatened by Radford.

“So this morning while I’m walking, and we’re the only two here, he comes up to me and tells, screams at me, ‘You’re going to die, you’re going to die,’ and I asked him to just leave me alone, and so far he has,” Lay says in the video.

The case has been referred to the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office to determine if criminal charges are warranted in the case.

Friends routinely recalled Lay as a warmhearted person who was nice to just about everyone he met.

Lay’s dog, Roxy, will be rehomed with a friend in the area so she can continue to visit her two- and four-legged friends in the same dog park.

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