CLEARWATER — Susan Carpenter saw the knife in Michael Gattus' hand and tried to warn her friend.
"I said, 'Gary, he's got a knife!' " Carpenter, 29, recalled Friday morning.
But it was too late. Gattus lunged at 38-year-old Gary Floyd and plunged the knife into his chest, Carpenter said.
Anthony Gary Floyd, who went by Gary, died early Thursday at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. The fight that led to his death happened at 522 McLennan St. shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday night.
Friends and family said Friday that Floyd, who lived next door to where the stabbing occurred, was a peacemaker who had gone to the home to try to quell an argument.
Clearwater police said a female resident at the home had asked Floyd to help her remove Gattus, 29, and his 32-year-old girlfriend Liza C. Mastronardi from her property. Police have not identified her because she is a witness.
Carpenter, who is a friend of the home's resident, said those gathered at the home that night wanted Gattus and Mastronardi to leave because they were "Xanaxed out" and the resident has children who were in the home at the time.
Floyd came over and tried to reason with the couple, Carpenter said. When they wouldn't leave, the argument turned physical.
"I hear (Gattus) say, 'What'd you say to me, boy?' and he just charged Gary into the road," Carpenter said.
Gattus is white. Floyd, the stabbing victim, was black. Investigators said there were no indications that the stabbing was racially motivated, according to Clearwater police spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts.
As the two men struggled, Mastronardi pulled a knife from her backpack and handed it to Gattus, who stabbed Floyd, police said.
Carpenter said she temporarily restrained Mastronardi until she saw Gattus headed toward her. "I figured he might stab me next, so I let her go," she said.
The couple then walked away and flagged down a car to get a ride. The resident who had earlier asked Floyd for help was able to get the car's license tag and a vehicle description, which she gave to police.
Police pulled over the car at a McDonald's on Missouri Avenue and arrested Gattus on a charge of first-degree murder. Mastronardi has been charged with accessory after the fact. Both were being held in the Pinellas County Jail on Friday afternoon.
Gattus and Mastronardi were part of a group gathered at the home Wednesday night. Both listed their address as Safe Harbor, a Pinellas County homeless shelter.
A longtime friend of Floyd's, Anthony Postell, 25, said Friday he was still struggling to cope with the loss.
"G was a loving dude. … He doesn't hang out on the streets. He doesn't go to clubs," Postell said.
Postell and others said Floyd was a stay-at-home dad who watched his five daughters while his wife worked. Friends and neighbors said they saw Floyd walking his daughters to and from school each day.
He attended Everlasting Bread of Life Church each Sunday, friends said.
Postell said Floyd also looked after the teens and young men in the neighborhood and tried to offer them guidance. "He was always trying to be like the father figure," Postell said.
Friends who gathered at Floyd's home Friday morning to mourn his death said it was sadly ironic that he died trying to help someone else. "Gary was just here trying to make sure everything was calm because of the kids," Carpenter said.
Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow @sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.