TAMPA, Fla. – The fatal shooting of John Walter Lay in a beloved dog park has left friends and family reeling and seeking answers. Lay, 52, was gunned down the day after he recorded a video alleging harassment from the man who would later become his killer.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has identified the shooter as 65-year-old Gerald Declan Radford, who claims self-defense in the incident. However, Lay’s friends and family dispute his account, insisting that Lay had been avoiding Radford’s ongoing harassment at the West Dog Park in Tampa for over a year.
Lay, who lived in Tampa and worked in customer service for a health care company, had found a sense of community at the dog park, where he would frequent regularly with his dog, Fala. The shooting has shocked Lay’s friends, who describe him as a friendly, easy-going person who treated everyone with kindness.
According to his sister, Sabrena Lay Hughes, Lay’s siblings grew up in Indiana before relocating with their father to the greater Atlanta area. Lay eventually moved to Tampa in the 1990s to be close to friends. He was a Navy veteran and participated in activities such as football and theater in high school.
In the weeks leading up to his death, Lay had been working overtime to earn a bonus for a trip to visit their mother in Indiana. Unfortunately, Hughes had to travel to Tampa to retrieve her late brother’s belongings and artwork.
Following the shooting, the sheriff’s office released a redacted investigative report, showing that Lay was shot with a semi-automatic handgun and that Radford called 911 afterwards. However, many details of the incident remain unclear, and Lay’s family is still waiting for justice to be served.
Despite the tragic event, Lay’s family has decided to honor his wish and let his dog, Fala, stay with the friends he had made at the dog park. The devastating loss of Lay has left his friends and family demanding answers and hoping for closure in the wake of this senseless tragedy.