Friends insist Tampa man was murdered due to his sexual orientation, not self-defense

TAMPA, Fla. – The death of John Walter Lay, known as “Walt,” at West Dog Park on Feb. 2 has sparked controversy as his friends claim he was targeted because of his sexual orientation. Lay’s accused shooter, Gerald Declan Radford, has asserted self-defense as the reason behind the shooting, but Lay’s loved ones refute this claim, alleging that Lay was subjected to harassment and anti-gay slurs from Radford.

Vicki Darlington, a close friend of Lay, expressed disbelief at the tragic turn of events, emphasizing that Lay’s friends are united in seeking justice for him. Despite Radford’s self-defense defense, no criminal charges have been filed in connection with the case.

Albert Darlington, another friend of Lay, denounced Radford as a liar, pointing to alleged text messages from Radford claiming that Lay attacked him at the park. Lay’s friends also revealed that Radford had a history of harassing Lay with anti-gay slurs, leading them to avoid him at the park.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the investigation into Lay’s death is ongoing, with the hope that more details surrounding the morning of the shooting will come to light. Lay’s friends have lamented the somber atmosphere at the dog park since his passing, noting that Lay played a unifying role among park-goers.

Legal experts have weighed in on the case, with law professor Jeffrey Swartz suggesting that self-defense may not apply in this scenario. Swartz emphasized the importance of proportional force in self-defense cases and the lack of confirmed witnesses or videos of the shooting, which could potentially benefit Radford’s defense.

Despite the challenges, Lay’s friends remain determined to seek justice and honor his memory. Jeff Miller, another friend of Lay, expressed their commitment to keeping Lay’s memory alive, indicating plans for a memorial at the park in his honor. As the investigation unfolds, Lay’s friends are unwavering in their pursuit of truth and accountability for his untimely death.