Florida Man Charged With Murder and Hate Crime for Shooting Gay Man at Dog Park

The man who shot and killed 52-year-old John Walter Lay at a dog park in Tampa, Florida has been arrested and charged with murder, prosecutors said on Friday.

According to NBC News, the man responsible for the shooting, 65-year-old Gerald Declan Radford, previously claimed that he killed Lay in early February in self-defense. However, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has charged Radford with second-degree murder with a hate crime enhancement. Radford had initially called 911 after shooting Lay and was questioned at the scene, though authorities did not have enough evidence to prove whether the shooting was in self-defense.

At the time, Radford claimed that Lay had attacked him, but shortly after Lay’s death, friends of Lay told authorities that Radford had been targeting Lay for some time, People reported. The day before Lay’s death, Lay had sent a friend, Kim Wolfley, a video detailing an encounter with Radford.

“So this morning while I’m walking, we’re the only two here, and he comes up to me and 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, according to People.

“This to me sounds like it was premeditated,” Wolfley told People. “It just floored me when I saw the video.”

Wolfley told People that Radford and Lay would see each other in the park often and had disagreements about subjects such as politics and vaccines. Wolfley added that Radford felt like an “outcast” and that his hatred of Lay increased over time.

Another friend of Lay’s, Samantha Hitchcock, alleged that Radford had been harassing Lay for over two years before the shooting. Hitchcock also said she heard Lay sling homophobic slurs at Lay many times. She also said she knew Radford carried a gun in his truck.

“Walt never instigated anything at all,” Hitchcock said. “He always walked away. He would say, ‘Leave me alone.’ He was just that type of person.”

After the shooting, according to People, Radford texted Lay’s friend and his landlord a photo of himself with marks on his face. In the message, Radford alleged that Lay attacked him first. “I’m so sorry to tell you, Walt attacked me at the park and I had to defend myself,” the message read. “I really had no choice he was too crazy.”