Tampa, Florida – The day before John Walter Lay was fatally shot in his beloved dog park in Tampa, he recorded a video documenting a recent encounter with a man who had been harassing him at the park. Lay’s friends and family revealed that the man had been hurling homophobic slurs and threatening him for several months, creating a hostile environment for Lay.
On the morning of the shooting, the 52-year-old Lay was shot dead at the same park, allegedly by the same man who had been harassing him. As of now, the shooter, 65-year-old Gerald Declan Radford, has not been arrested or charged. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has released limited details about the incident and did not issue a news release until four days after the shooting, only after a reporter inquired about it. The agency has indicated that the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office will determine whether to file criminal charges in the case.
Radford has insisted that he shot Lay in self-defense, claiming that he was attacked. However, Lay’s family and friends dispute this account, stating that Lay had been making efforts to avoid Radford and would have only fought back in self-defense.
Lay, a former U.S. Navy member and customer service worker, had formed a strong bond with the community at the dog park after adopting a shelter dog named Fala. He had considered moving to be closer to family but decided to stay in Tampa due to the strong friendships he had formed at the park.
The situation escalated as Lay and Radford, who had initially been on friendly terms, grew apart due to differing political views and Radford’s hostility towards Lay’s sexuality. The hostility turned into harassment, prompting Lay to begin documenting his interactions with Radford, including the fatal encounter.
The circumstances surrounding Lay’s death remain unresolved, with the sheriff’s office releasing very limited information about the incident. Lay’s family and friends are left seeking justice for his untimely and tragic death.