Hillsborough dog park shooter makes 1st court appearance

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gerald Radford went before a judge Saturday morning after being arrested in connection to a shooting at a Hillsborough County dog park in February.

Deputies said he shot and killed John Walter Lay, 52, on Feb. 2 at the West Dog Park.

Tampa man charged in hate-motivated murder of gay man at dog park, state attorney says

Prosecutors said at the time, Radford told deputies he called 911 and shot Lay in self-defense.

However, the state attorney’s office said several community members later came forward and informed investigators that Radford used bigoted slurs against Lay, who was a gay man, and made threats toward him.

While reviewing evidence, investigators found a disturbing video on Lay’s phone from the day before.

“He’s making a statement saying the shooter made a statement to him: “You’re going to die,’ that’s the victim talking into his own phone making a selfie video of what he’s saying what the shooter said to him the day earlier.” Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Colonel Frank Losat explained.

Over a month later, Radford was arrested.

He went before a judge Saturday morning, charged with second degree murder with enhancement of a hate crime.

Bryant Camareno, an attorney unaffiliated with this case, said it would be rare that a defendant be allowed to walk free while a case like this is investigated.

“In my opinion, very unusual,” he responded. “In the 30 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve maybe seen it once. This is probably the second time especially here in Hillsborough County.

Camareno said for Raford’s claim of self-defense to work, it depends on two things: the jury and the facts.

“So it’s really not that difficult to prove self defense, the issue is whether or not the jury believes it,” he explained. “It depends on your jurisdiction. In Pasco County, the jury makeup over there, they’re big on guns and big on self defense. Tampa is a little bit mixed.

He said, it will ultimately be up to the jury or judge to believe.

“The jury is going to have to decide, who do we believe?,” he described. “The civilians who claim that he had been threatened, meaning the shooter had threatened the victim or are we going to defend the defendant who is going to say, no on that particular day, I felt I needed to use my gun.”

Radford’s pretrial detention hearing is set for Wednesday.

He will remain behind bars until then.

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