Sunday, May 27, 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
Her husband wouldn't apologize to her father — so she shot him, police say

Her husband wouldn't apologize to her father — so she shot him, police say

RIVERVIEW — A Riverview woman shot and killed her husband Saturday because he punched her father and wouldn’t say sorry, the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office said. Sabrina Michelle Hendley, 40, faces a first-degree murder charge in th...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Hernando officials seize 36 neglected dogs from sanctuary

Hernando officials seize 36 neglected dogs from sanctuary

WEEKI WACHEE — A woman who runs an animal sanctuary will face dozens of animal cruelty charges after Hernando County animal enforcement officers said they found dogs, equine, pigs, cats and chickens housed in poor conditions on her property.Animal of...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Police investigating shooting outside nightclub

ST. PETERSBURG — Police are investigating a fatal shooting that occurred outside a south St. Petersburg nightclub early Saturday morning.Brennan-Aire D. Williams, 28, was pronounced dead shortly after arriving by cab at Bayfront Health. Police invest...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Woman dies in Plant City after SUV flips off road

PLANT CITY — A Seffner woman died Saturday from injuries sustained when her sports utility vehicle flipped off the road and crashed into a fence near the intersection of Tanner Road and State Road 574.Amanda K. Cepeda-Duque, 21, was traveling west on...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Quick action to slow traffic on Bayshore prompts call to do more citywide

Quick action to slow traffic on Bayshore prompts call to do more citywide

TAMPA — As city workers set up signs Friday establishing a lower speed limit on Bayshore Boulevard, neighborhood residents and transportation activists urged more steps to improve safety for pedestrians all across the city.The move is a good beginnin...
Published: 05/26/18
Police: Driver in fatal Bayshore faces new charge in child’s death

Police: Driver in fatal Bayshore faces new charge in child’s death

The 18-year-old who was arrested this week after police said he was racing when he fatally struck a young mother pushing her stroller across Bayshore Boulevard was back in jail on Friday night.Cameron Herrin, 18, was arrested on a second count of veh...
Published: 05/25/18
Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Last year three members of the 69ers Motorcycle Club gang were implicated in the execution of a rival gang leader in the middle of rush hour traffic in Pasco County.Now those three and two other 69ers members have been indicted on federal charges tha...
Published: 05/25/18

Raccoon bites bicyclist, now the Health Department is looking for the victim

TAMPA — A bicyclist in the Palm River area was bitten by a raccoon Friday morning, the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County said.Now the department is concerned the animal had rabies and is searching for the bicyclist."While it is impo...
Published: 05/25/18

Police: Baby not abandoned; mother surrendered infant

TAMPA — A newborn baby initially thought to be found on the ground near a trash can in north Tampa was not abandoned, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.The child’s mother gave birth to the boy Thursday, and she and someone else too...
Published: 05/25/18
Student says science teacher tackled Indiana school shooter

Student says science teacher tackled Indiana school shooter

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — A male student opened fire at a suburban Indianapolis middle school Friday morning, wounding another student and a teacher before being taken into custody, authorities said. Seventh-grader Ethan Stonebraker said the science teache...
Published: 05/25/18