Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Public safety

Charges won't be filed in Apollo Beach man's fatal shooting of neighbor

APOLLO BEACH — The State Attorney's Office will not file charges against a 67-year-old man who fatally shot his neighbor in October, officials said Tuesday.

David Cockerham told detectives he killed his neighbor, John Gallik, in self-defense.

The State Attorney's Office did not have enough evidence to seek prosecution, said spokesman Mark Cox.

The deadly encounter took place Oct. 18 when Cockerham was walking his dog in his Southshore Falls subdivision. The dog knocked over a sign on Gallik's lawn that partly blocked the sidewalk.

As Cockerham tried to move the sign out of the way and control his pet, Gallik stormed outside, deputies said last year. Cockerham took a few steps back. But Gallik thrust a butterfly knife toward Cockerham, threatened to cut his throat and charged toward him, deputies said.

Cockerham pulled a .38-caliber revolver from his pocket, deputies said, and fatally shot Gallik once in the chest.

Gallik, 52, died at the scene.

Cockerham called 911. He was taken into custody, but later released.

For more than two months, detectives investigated the shooting. They interviewed neighbors and reviewed crime scene evidence, sheriff's office spokesman Larry McKinnon said Tuesday.

The shooting took place after months of growing tensions between Gallik and the subdivision. Nine days before his death, Southshore Falls filed a request for a court injunction, which outlined some of Gallik's behaviors.

He had turned his lawn into a "perpetual garage sale" and was aggressive toward his neighbors, records show.

"A lot of emotions," McKinnon said, "were running high."

Before Christmas, deputies and prosecutors met to discuss the completed investigation.

In a Dec. 21 letter to the sheriff's office, prosecutors said they were not filing charges against Cockerham due to "insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution," adding that the state "cannot refute Mr. Cockerham's claim of self-defense."

Cockerham did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

"There is a man that has to live with the fact that he took a life," Mc- Kinnon said. "That's never an easy thing to do."

Laura C. Morel can be reached at [email protected] or (813)226-3386.

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