Sunday, January 21, 2018
Public safety

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

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

Deputies: 18-year-old speeding on U.S. 19 rear-ended car, faces charges of DUI, fleeing scene

PALM HARBOR — A speeding teenager on U.S. 19 refused to stop for deputies and took off, later rear-ending a car and injuring three adults early Sunday morning, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.A little after 1:30 a.m., Kingzig Montan...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Woman dies after falling ‘several decks’ from a balcony on a Carnival cruise

Woman dies after falling ‘several decks’ from a balcony on a Carnival cruise

A woman sailing on a Carnival Cruise Line ship from Jacksonville fell from her cabin’s balcony and died Friday.Doral-based Carnival Cruise Line spokesman Vance Gulliksen confirmed the death Saturday, saying in a statement that the incident occurred e...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

WEEKI WACHEE — The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday investigated the death of a Hillsborough County man in the Eagle’s Nest, an underwater network of caves where at least 11 others have died since 1981.Even experienced divers have lost th...
Published: 01/20/18

Bicyclist dead after being hit by car in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — A bicyclist is dead after he was hit by a car just before 10 a.m. Saturday morning, police said.Police were still investigating the crash in the 8700 block of 49th Street N late Saturday morning.Police shut down northbound 49th Street...
Published: 01/20/18

Motorcyclist crashes into Subaru while trying to flee Pinellas deputies

CLEARWATER — A 21-year-old fleeing from deputies on a motorcycle crashed into car while speeding away from a cruiser Friday, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Michael Brown, of Clearwater, was recklessly driving his 2016...
Published: 01/20/18

Clearwater man in critical condition after medical episode while driving

DUNEDIN — A 60-year-old Clearwater man who likely had a medical episode while driving is now in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after rolling over his car, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. A Largo police off...
Published: 01/20/18

Four people linked to Tampa carjacking captured hours later

TAMPA — It took officers just 27 minutes Friday night to capture four people who they said stole a car from its owner.The incident started outside the Ybor Coffee Shop at 5:45 a.m. A group approached the driver as he sat in his 2010 Toyota Corolla. T...
Published: 01/19/18

Florida National Guard soldier killed, five injured in Sebring crash

SEBRING — A soldier with the Florida National Guard was killed and five others were hospitalized after a multi-vehicle crash on Friday, officials said.The crash took place at about 1 p.m. at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Hammock Road.The soldiers ...
Published: 01/19/18
Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

NEW PORT RICHEY — Two New Port Richey men face charges after Pasco County deputies say they stole about $11,000 worth of cellphones and cellphone equipment at a Metro PCS store on State Road 54.Robert Jackson and Ronald Hartshorn were arrested Wednes...
Published: 01/19/18
Autopsy: drugs found in MLB star Roy Halladay’s system after plane crash

Autopsy: drugs found in MLB star Roy Halladay’s system after plane crash

When former Major League Baseball pitcher Roy Halladay died in a plane crash in November, he had amphetamines, morphine and the sleep aid zolpidem in his system, according to an autopsy report. Halladay, 40, died from blunt force trauma with drownin...
Published: 01/19/18