RIVERVIEW — When Vickie Rock heard the woman's screams from downstairs — "Help me please! He's killing me!" — she asked her boyfriend for his gun.
Rock had already called 911, but the woman continued to plead. Rock couldn't wait.
She ran out of the apartment and told Daniel Robertson to stop beating his girlfriend. When he tackled Rock and started beating her instead, she fired three shots. The third pierced his chest
Rock did not break any laws, authorities say, when she killed Robertson on Aug. 17. Prosecutors have recently announced they will not file charges.
"The evidence is insufficient to rebut the claims of self-defense or defense of others," a Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office memo states.
Rock was relieved when she got the news. She believes she saved Cristy Vasilakos' life.
But it doesn't feel good.
"Do I have any regrets for taking a tick off the a-- of society? No," she told a reporter last week. "Do I feel bad for taking the life of a son, a brother, a father? Yes."
Sitting in the back of a sheriff's vehicle after the shooting, Rock sobbed as she thought about Robertson's family. She never thought she would kill someone, but Rock, 50, said she was certain Robertson was going to kill her.
As Rock approached him, he hit her with what appeared to be a beer bottle. She fell to the ground, and in seconds the 6-foot-tall, 175-pound man was on top of her.
He tried to grab her gun, she says.
"He kept hitting me … so I shot once and missed," she wrote in an official statement an hour later. "I shot again and missed. I shot the third time and he screamed, got up and ran away."
By the time deputies arrived, Rock's left eye was swelling shut and Robertson was dead in the parking lot.
Deputies interviewed Rock, neighbors and witnesses. Their statements are included in a 232-page report obtained last week by the Tampa Bay Times. They are consistent.
Neighbors awoke to the sound of breaking glass, then banging. Many quickly figured it was Robertson beating Vasilakos, 40. It wasn't the first time.
He was "an abusive, violent jerk," neighbor Todd Singleton would say later.
They heard Vasilakos' screams. "He's choking me!" and "He's killing me!" Several called 911. One man grabbed a large knife and walked outside.
But Rock had already fired three shots with her boyfriend's .45-caliber Smith & Wesson gun.
She is good with guns. She married at 16 and learned from her then-husband, a hunter. He wanted her to carry a gun for protection. Her concealed weapon permit outlasted the marriage.
Rock thinks more women should learn how to handle guns. She remembers what it's like to be abused by a lover. Also, her brother, Charles "Chuck" Rock, was murdered by his ex-girlfriend 10 years ago.
Was it her past that prompted her refusal to be a passive bystander? Maybe, she says.
Rock also knew Vasilakos has three children. "I thought, she's got three babies. Who's going to raise those babies? That's their mother," she said.
Robertson's shooting death joins a short list of justifiable homicides in Hillsborough over the past year.
In November, a 17-year-old Plant City boy fatally shot his father as the man beat the boy's mother. He was not charged.
And earlier this month, a Valrico woman named Cynthia Walker fatally shot her husband during a fight at their home. Hillsborough prosecutors also declined to prosecute that shooting this month, saying there is not enough evidence to rebut claims of defense.
The cases have a common thread: All three shooting victims were committing domestic violence, according to authorities. And Florida law allows people to use deadly force if they reasonably believe they or another person are in danger of death or great bodily harm.
Rock learned about the Valrico shooting, which happened just two weeks after she shot Robertson. She did not want to learn more. "I'm happy she didn't die," Rock said of the woman who shot her husband. "But I'm going through enough on my own. I can't take on other people's problems."
Rock says she is getting some therapy at a church down the street from her home. People have told her "time heals all wounds." But it hasn't yet in the death of her brother. His ex-girlfriend, Elizabeth Williams, is serving life in prison for egging on another man to light Charles Rock on fire. That man is serving 40 years.
Vickie Rock says she would like to be an advocate for battered people — men and women alike.
"Women who are battered, they have a false sense of security," she said. "As long as they are beside their batterer, they know his mood and feel like they can control the situation. A person who is battered is always trying to go home because it is where they feel safe because they know what's going on.
"But it's not a safe place. It's the most dangerous place in the world."
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3433.