LUTZ — Henry B. Harris wanted to take an evening stroll Saturday with his four pit bulls. He didn't always feel safe walking at night, so he took along his 9mm handgun, too.
But Harris never made it off his property at 18627 San Rio Circle.
Harris, 61, shot his 26-year-old son in the chest after an argument the son was having with his girlfriend escalated to include the father, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.
The father told deputies that he shot his son, Eric M. Harris, in self-defense.
The younger Harris, who lived in the home with his father, was transported to a hospital and was described Sunday by the Sheriff's Office as being stable.
Henry Harris has no criminal record, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records, and no charges have been filed in the incident as an investigation continues.
He declined to comment Sunday. Speaking through an open window of his home as his dogs barked behind him, he said, "I'm kind of upset by all of this."
Eric Harris and his girlfriend returned home after Saturday evening's University of South Florida Bulls football game at Raymond James Stadium, according to Larry McKinnon, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
Harris was intoxicated, deputies said, and got in an argument with his girlfriend, whose name has not been released.
Henry Harris holds a concealed weapons permit, McKinnon said, and typically takes a gun with him while walking the dogs.
Somehow, detectives said, the father became involved in the argument.
As Henry Harris tried to leave the house, Eric Harris attacked him from behind and put him in a choke hold, McKinnon said. The father told investigators he could not breathe and his arms were beginning to tingle.
He said he broke free, but his son came at him again. That's when he shot Eric Harris once in the chest, McKinnon said.
He and a neighbor called 911 about 11 p.m.
McKinnon said detectives were continuing to investigate and will turn their findings over to the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office.
State records show Eric Harris has a criminal history. He pleaded guilty Oct. 6, 2004, to two counts of burglary in addition to grand theft and dealing in stolen property, the records show. He received four years of probation and adjudication was withheld.
Henry Harris' mother, Hilda B. Harris, 84, of Tampa, said her son didn't always feel safe in his Lutz neighborhood, but his pit bulls and gun helped him feel safer.
"His neighbors hated the dogs," she said. "He uses them to protect him. My son is very lovable with dogs."
Harris said she wished her son followed her example and sought protection from a higher power.
"I feel protected by Jesus Christ," she said.
Times news researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected]