Monday, November 20, 2017
Public safety

A shooter's lament: He's free but not proud of it

RECOMMENDED READING


Two guys argue about a barbecue grill. One starts swinging his fists. The other pulls out a gun and shoots. The unarmed man dies. The shooter goes home, no charges filed.

Outrageous or justified?

More than two years after the incident in which he killed Jose "Tito" Ramirez, Owen Eugene Whitlock is still trying to sort his own feelings out. "I really kind of liked the guy," he said.

Whitlock, 62 at the time of the incident, had lots of reasons to dislike Ramirez, 30. The younger man had spent time in prison for cocaine trafficking. He had been dating Whitlock's 25-year-old daughter for about a year. The unmarried couple were expecting a baby.

But Whitlock, an insurance adjuster who lives north of Orlando, said he was friendly with Ramirez and even found an occasional job for him. The night before the confrontation in 2009, the two had talked about where they'd have Christmas dinner. "We'd had a great conversation," Whitlock recalled.

When Whitlock asked Ramirez the next day to haul his grill to his daughter's house for the holiday meal, the younger man snapped. Ramirez told his girlfriend he was going to "handle" her father because he had disrespected him.

A little after 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Whitlock pulled into his driveway. Ramirez came up the street followed by his pregnant girlfriend, who was yelling, "No, Tito. Don't, Tito."

Witnesses saw a shirtless Ramirez raise his fists "wanting to fight." One said he advanced in slow, measured steps.

Whitlock said Ramirez threatened "to show me what they do to people like me in prison," then hit him in the chest with his forearms twice and shoved him in the back when the older man turned.

"I wasn't going to stand there and let someone beat me to a pulp," said Whitlock, who has a concealed weapon permit.

He pulled his Glock from his front pocket, warned Ramirez to back off, then shot him when he kept on coming. Ramirez stumbled back. Whitlock told onlookers to call the sheriff.

Ramirez was dead on arrival at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Whitlock's daughter, who was found to have empty pill bottles in her name for oxycodone and alprazolam in her truck, gave birth to a drug-dependent baby a few months later.

Whitlock, who was in the Army, believes people should be able to defend themselves, but he worries about hot-heads getting guns. He'd never seen Ramirez in a rage, and to this day can't imagine what set him off. But he also can't imagine what he would have done differently. That doesn't mean he's proud of his status as a "stand your ground" survivor.

"Other people thought it was okay, but I never did," Whitlock said. "I think about him every day."

Comments
Park, Walk and Talk is St. Petersburg police chief’s signature program. Is it working?

Park, Walk and Talk is St. Petersburg police chief’s signature program. Is it working?

ST. PETERSBURG — Police Chief Tony Holloway has made getting officers out of their cars, walking streets and talking to residents a key plank in his effort to improve relations between his department and the community.But three years into his adminis...
Updated: 1 hour ago

FHP: St. Petersburg man, 24, died while trying to cross state road in St. Cloud

ST. CLOUD — A St. Petersburg man died Sunday night after he was struck by a vehicle while attempting to cross a highway, authorities said. Matthew Mitchell, 24, walked into the path of a 2008 Ford sport utility vehicle as he was trying to cross U.S. ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Largo police active shooter training ‘a sign of the times’ for participants

Largo police active shooter training ‘a sign of the times’ for participants

LARGO — The classroom was full, but the chatter was quiet as the students picked at doughnuts and sipped coffee from paper cups.Many were strangers to each other, but the reason they showed up at the Largo Police Department on a sunny Saturday mornin...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Deputies: Port Richey woman arrested for hitting boy, 4, with hanger

PORT RICHEY — A Port Richey woman was arrested on a charge of felony child abuse after a 4-year-old boy in her care told deputies she hit him with a clothes hanger, leaving bruises, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.Teresa White-Fry, 38, was arr...
Updated: 3 hours ago

St. Petersburg pedestrian fatally struck in Osceola County

A pedestrian from St. Petersburg was killed Sunday night when he was struck by an SUV in Osceola County.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 24-year-old Matthew Mitchell was struck along on U.S. 192 at Pine Grove Road in St. Cloud around 7 p.m.Tr...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tampa Electric, contractor fined $43,000 in gas leak

Tampa Electric, contractor fined $43,000 in gas leak

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Tampa Electric $18,108 and gave the company two "serious" citations for its response to a gas leak at the Big Bend Power Station in May, the agency announced late Friday.The May 23 incident invo...
Updated: 3 hours ago

FHP seeks New Port Richey hit-and-run driver who left man severely injured

NEW PORT RICHEY — Police are searching for the driver of a vehicle that left a New Port Richey man seriously injured after a hit and run Sunday evening, according to Florida Highway Patrol.Randy Pearson, 58, tried to walk across State Road 54, west o...
Updated: 3 hours ago
In wake of killings, Seminole Heights hosts supper to thank first responders

In wake of killings, Seminole Heights hosts supper to thank first responders

TAMPA — For weeks, Tampa police have saturated Southeast Seminole Heights, working long hours to catch a killer. Today, residents will say thanks with a sit-down supper.Several dozen volunteers with four neighborhood associations will serve up baked ...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Stolen car crashes in St. Pete, leaving passenger, 15, with life threatening injuries

Two boys in a stolen car struck a dip in the roadway and crashed into a tree, leaving the 15-year-old passenger with life-threatening injuries, St. Petersburg police said.The crash occurred about 11:25 a.m. Sunday as the car sped west on 11th Avenue ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Search suspended for missing Cortez boater who left from Egmont Key

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for a missing 63-year-old boater on Sunday evening, two days after he and his dog were reported missing 5 miles northwest of Mead Point, just inland from Anna Maria Island.On Friday, Fraser Horne of Cortez le...
Published: 11/19/17