Man finally charged with murder one month after shooting gay dog walker: ‘Hatred in his heart’

John Walter Lay who was fatally shot at West Dog Park in Tampa, he is wearing a purple shirt that reads 'stronger than dirt' and is surrounded by three dogs.

A man who fatally shot gay dog walker John Walter Lay in Tampa in early February has been arrested and charged with murder, reports People.

Shortly after the shooting, the Tampa Bay Times reported that the day before his death, local man John Walter Lay, known as Walt to his friends, recorded a video of himself speaking directly to the camera, explaining, “So this morning while I’m walking — and we’re the only two here — (the gunman) 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.”

Friends of Lay told The Tampa Bay Times that the next morning, at the same park and at about the same time , the same man – 65-year-old Gerald Declan Radford – shot Lay dead. He claimed he shot Lay in self-defence. However, his friends did not agree that would have been the case.

John Walter Lay smiling in the dog park wearing a Key West T-shirt, each letter is in a different colour of the rainbow.
John Walter Lay was known to friends as Walt (Facebook: Justice4Walt)

“In my opinion, there’s no way in hell this is really self-defense,” said Albert Darlington, 68, who was Lay’s friend and landlord. “For over a year, Dec has done nothing but harass Walt. He screams and hollers and calls him a f—-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–king mouth’ … and it has gotten worse and worse and worse.”

His friends subsequently set up a Facebook page called ‘Justice 4 Walt’ to campaign for a murder charge, sharing photographs and recent video footage of Lay.

On March 8, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Gerald Declan Radford, 65, shot and killed John Walter Lay, 52, on February 2 at the West Dog Park in Tampa, Florida, and announced that he has now been charged with second-degree murder with a hate crime enhancement.

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“After analysing the evidence, it was clear that this man acted from hatred within his heart,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement announcing Radford’s arrest. “A hatred that will not be tolerated within our strong and diverse community.”

“We should all be able to enjoy a day at the dog park without the fear of gunfire,” State Attorney Suzy Lopez said in a statement. “This victim also deserved to live free from fear and discrimination based on his sexual orientation. The evidence shows the defendant’s actions were motivated by hate, and he will be held accountable. My heart is with the victim’s family and large group of friends as we fight for justice together.”

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