gay man killed at Tampa dog park; accused shooter claims self-defense but friends insist it was a hate crime

TAMPA, Fla. – The shooting incident at West Dog Park that resulted in the death of John Walter Lay, known as “Walt,” has sparked controversy as the accused shooter, Gerald Declan Radford, claims self-defense, while friends of Lay believe he was targeted for being gay.

Lay’s friends are demanding justice, insisting that he was killed because of his sexual orientation. Despite Radford’s assertion of self-defense, Lay’s loved ones maintain that he was deliberately singled out.

Vicki Darlington, a close friend of Lay, expressed shock at the tragic turn of events, stating, “None of us never imagined that this would happen.”

The absence of criminal charges filed adds to the uncertainty surrounding the case, leaving Lay’s friends and family anxious for answers.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the incident, with plans to forward the findings to the State Attorney’s Office upon completion.

Albert Darlington, another friend of Lay, cast doubt on Radford’s claims, referring to a text message he received from Radford on the day of the shooting. The message, accompanied by a photo of Radford, alleged that Lay had initiated the confrontation at the park.

At the heart of the matter lies the question of whether Lay’s killing was a hate crime, as suggested by some observers. Law professor Jeffrey Swartz of Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay campus highlighted the potential implications of the case, emphasizing the importance of presenting the evidence to a jury.

The ongoing investigation has left Lay’s friends seeking closure through a potential memorial at the park in his honor, pledging to pursue justice regardless of the time it may take. The community’s call for accountability underscores the need for a thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding Lay’s untimely death.