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Family: Accused Valrico shooter is 'quiet, unassuming, intelligent man who loves everyone'

TAMPA — Trevor Dooley stood before a judge Wednesday morning, wrists shackled, straight face, accused of killing a 41-year-old father in front of his 8-year-old daughter.

Dooley's family was there, on the back bench of the courtroom. They watched the 69-year-old school bus driver in a jailhouse jumpsuit via video feed from the Falkenburg Road Jail.

"Oh, my God," one of them said, tearing up. It's clear they never expected this.

Allegations: He came out of his house packing a gun to shoo off a skateboarder and things went terribly wrong.

Charges: manslaughter, improper exhibition of a firearm and openly carrying a firearm.

Bail: $50,000, which he posted and was released late Wednesday.

Dooley's family said the public has jumped to conclusions.

"We know him as a quiet, unassuming, intelligent man who loves everyone," said his brother-in-law, Desmond Langton, after court. "He believes in family first and is always willing to lend a hand to anyone in need."

So how could this happen?

In the 1990s, builders brought order to a spit of woods in eastern Hillsborough County. Men cleared land, paved roads and gave them names like Water Lark Way and Clover Dew Court. They built a gate to keep trouble out and erected color-coordinated homes. Residents adopted community standards that regulate everything from downspouts to clotheslines to obnoxious smells.

Sometimes those rules lead to disputes between neighbors. Some have complained that the rules are too strict.

In this orderly flux live Trevor and Patricia Dooley, who moved from of the Bronx in 1999, married 42 years, in a 3,652-square-foot home on Partridge Point Trail in Valrico.

The retiree with three grown children keeps his lawn trimmed. He likes jazz, fixing cars and messing with computers and ham radios, family said.

The Sheriff's Office has no record of having visited the house, nor is there record of Dooley being charged with so much as speeding.

On Sunday afternoon, a teenager rode his skateboard across the street and Dooley, gun tucked in his waistband, authorities say, walked over to stop him.

•••

Legal experts say Dooley is charged with manslaughter in the death of David James because it appears the shooting was not premeditated (required for first-degree murder) or committed during commission of a felony, or with a depraved mind and ill intent or hatred (required for second-degree murder).

And they say prosecutors may have a hard time proving that.

"It all depends on what happened the minute that gun was shown and why the accused felt the need to pull the gun out," said Tampa lawyer Steve Romine.

The Sheriff's Office released this version of events:

Dooley came out of his house to confront the skateboarder. James, who was playing basketball with his daughter, defended the boy, so Dooley started arguing with him. Dooley turned to walk away, and James yelled after him, questioning him about the gun sticking out of his pants.

Dooley turned back and pulled the gun. James lunged toward Dooley in an apparent attempt to disarm him and they struggled, falling to the ground. The gun fired, striking James.

Dooley, Romine said, had the right to carry a concealed weapon because he had a permit. And he may have a good case for immunity if he invokes the "stand your ground" defense.

That statute: "A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."

Important to the case is what Dooley was thinking when he pulled the gun. And what James was thinking when he reached for it. And what Dooley was thinking that James was thinking when he reached for the gun.

"Here you've got a guy with a gun in his pants, which is not illegal," said another Tampa lawyer, Rick Terrana. "He gets in an argument with another guy, and then everything's fuzzy. And the dad was shot. I think that's all they know at this point, and that's the problem." Dooley has not talked to authorities.

The judge ruled that Dooley cannot carry a firearm. He also cannot return to his home in his gated community, across the street from the place a man died and the sign that says No Skateboarding.

Times staff writers Danny Valentine and Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this report.

Family: Accused Valrico shooter is 'quiet, unassuming, intelligent man who loves everyone' 09/29/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 30, 2010 6:59am]
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