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Evidence in Valrico shooting: 'All this over a skateboard'

TAMPA — Two men lay on the ground, one with a gun, the other with a bullet hole in his chest.

There had been a heated dispute over whether a skateboarder should be allowed on a basketball court. A struggle ensued, then a gunshot.

Two 911 calls, released for the first time Monday with other investigative documents in the manslaughter prosecution of Trevor Dooley, recorded the scene that unfolded Sept. 26 in a Valrico neighborhood park.

"I see the blood," the 14-year-old skateboarder said in one phone call, panting. "I saw the gun. I heard it go off."

"Oh, my God," a witness, Michael Whitt, said in another call. "I think this man is dead. … Shot right in the heart. … Please hurry. ..."

In the background, the man with the gun argued with a woman.

"He was laying on my chest!" Dooley said.

"After you pulled a gun on him!" she said.

"Oh, my God," Whitt said again. "All of this over a skateboard. I can't believe this."

"I was walking away from him," Dooley could be heard saying.

"I know you were, sir," Whitt said. "I know. I know you were. I saw it."

• • •

In Twin Lakes, a Valrico subdivision made up of shade trees, manicured lawns and playing children, Trevor Dooley watched for trouble.

The school bus driver, now 70, carried a card identifying him as a volunteer for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, ready to use an amateur radio if a hurricane hit. At homeowners association meetings, he was vocal and opinionated, according to neighbor accounts gathered by investigators.

After someone vandalized neighborhood tennis courts, Dooley kept an extra close eye. It bothered him to watch people skating on the nearby basketball courts, their wheels leaving permanent marks on the ground. Sometimes, he stepped out of his home and walked across the street to tell them to stop. Sometimes, they taunted him.

Neighbor Michael Gaeta, 51, told deputies he was playing roller hockey out there with his son one day seven years ago when Dooley came out and told them they weren't allowed.

Gaeta remembered Dooley. Once, Gaeta had been watching his kids in his backyard pool when Dooley came onto his property and told the children to get out of the pool, warning of an approaching lightning storm. Gaeta intervened, and Dooley left.

Gaeta ignored Dooley's orders to stop playing roller hockey that day and Dooley left, appearing irritated.

Years later, another dad ended up on the court on a Sunday afternoon.

David James, 41, was playing basketball with his 8-year-old daughter, Danielle, when a 14-year-old boy asked if he could share the court to ride his skateboard. James agreed, and the boy started to skate.

That's when Dooley stepped out of his home.

• • •

Michelle and Michael Whitt were playing tennis when they saw Dooley emerge from his garage and yell at the teen to stop skateboarding.

"You're not allowed to skate on the basketball courts," Dooley said, according to the couple.

James hollered back that there were no posted signs saying so, and told the teen to keep riding.

Dooley disagreed and walked across the street.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," Michelle Whitt thought she heard James say. It might have been "Oh crap." Either way, it seemed clear he didn't want a fight.

The couple saw Dooley and James exchange words. They saw Dooley lift his shirt, flash a gun —which he had a permit to carry — and yell an expletive before turning to walk away.

James followed him, they said. The husband, wife and skateboarder each recalled hearing James saying something:

"What'd you say to me?"

"Don't you show a gun to me!"

"I'm not done talking to you."

They said Dooley turned back around, his hand on his gun, and James lunged toward him.

The two men wrestled to the ground. Michael Whitt remembers the gun firing as the men fell. Michelle Whitt told a detective the men rolled over and James ended up on his knees with one arm holding Dooley down before the gun went off.

The husband and wife both said James was on top of Dooley when James yelled his last words.

"Call 911, I've been shot!"

He rolled off Dooley and did not move again.

Dooley stood up, staggered and went back down to the ground, they said.

Michael Whitt called 911. He didn't get close to James until Dooley unloaded the gun and tossed it to the side.

"Sir, can you hear me?" Michael Whitt asked James.

He asked twice more.

"His child is out here," he told the 911 operator. "Oh, my God."

Dooley waited for authorities, making no attempt to leave the scene. The man with the gun would be put in handcuffs but not arrested until two days later. He is awaiting trial.

Michael Whitt later recalled something Dooley said before authorities arrived:

"You saw him come at me, right? You saw him come at me."

• • •

A day later, Danielle James sat in a room talking with an interviewer trained to deal with children. Danielle said her favorite color was pink, she had a blue Barbie bike with a basket on the front, and her dad's nickname for her was Chuggabugg.

A box of tissues sat on a table, untouched, as Danielle talked about how her father died.

"I lived with my mom and dad, but I just live with my mom now," Danielle said. "Cause my dad's not here anymore. He died."

"He died?" the interviewer asked.

"Yeah, somebody shot him," Danielle said. "Yeah, yesterday at the basketball court."

"I didn't even see the gun go off. I just heard the noise," she said.

"Danielle, you know that what happened with your dad yesterday wasn't your fault, right?"

"Yeah."

"And you didn't do anything wrong."

"It was the man's fault," the girl said, "cause there was no reason to shoot my dad."

In a girl's words

The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office released audio tapes of 911 calls and a video of an interview with Danielle James, the shooting victim's 8-year-old daughter. To hear and view them, go to links.tampabay.com.

Evidence in Valrico shooting: 'All this over a skateboard' 12/13/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 12:18am]
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