CHERIE DIEZ | Times
Anthony Roy and his wife, Irene, retired to Clearwater and fixed up this little house at the corner of S Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Woodlawn Street.

THE HOUSE on the corner

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

Anthony Roy felt threatened in his own back yard. So he got a gun. What would you do? Could this happen in your neighborhood?

When the couple retired to Clearwater four years ago, they moved into a little house on a big corner lot. Across from a Stop-N-Shop. Next to a police substation.

The two-bedroom home was supposed to be their slice of the Florida dream.

But soon, Anthony James Roy, and his wife, Irene Quarles, started seeing people hanging out in their yard, drinking and smoking weed. Strangers plugged their phones into outlets on the couple’s patio. They sat on their outdoor furniture, selling drugs.

The couple tried to make them leave. They complained to the police. When that didn’t work, they tried to build friendships, hoping they could charm the squatters into respecting their property. Sometimes, they hid in their house.

For three years, the tension built. Until one sweltering summer night in 2016.

The events are captured in police reports, videos, depositions, evidence files and interviews. The story is recounted here in their own words.

Roy doesn’t deny shooting another man 17 times. He just wants to explain why.

•••

In their own words

Anthony James Roy

50. His parents were in the Air Force, and he lived in Italy, Alaska, Los Angeles. Landed in Washington, D.C., where he installed air-conditioning systems. Arrests for marijuana and cocaine possession.

Bernard Antonio Richards

31, a.k.a. Big Tony. Grew up in Florida, played high school football. Arrests for selling cocaine and hallucinogens, battery, assault. Stayed in an abandoned apartment near Roy's house.

Irene Quarles

60. Roy's wife of 16 years. Worked for a caterer in D.C. Her 32-year-old daughter and 9-year-old grandson moved with them to Florida.

Patricia Roy

66. Anthony Roy's mother. Retired master sergeant, U.S. Air Force. Lives in D.C., winters in Florida. Bought the house on the corner as a rental investment.

Margie Mills

52. Richards’ mother. Once called police on her son, who moved out at age 16. She didn't see him often.

Daniel Slaughter

47. Clearwater police chief since 2014. Officers arrested drug dealers in Roy's neighborhood, he said, but the "revolving door of justice" kept letting them out.

Lee Pearlman

35. Defense attorney Patricia Roy hired to defend her son. She sold the house to pay his legal fees. Pearlman offered to continue for free. He wants to take the case to trial.

At the police substation, on the night of the shooting, Roy, 50, and Quarles, 60, spoke to officers in separate rooms. They explained what had gone on in recent years, how they’d felt trapped and powerless.

ROY: The man just scared me to the point where I had to do something. I thought he was bonafide.

QUARLES: It didn’t happen in the yard. But it started there. I been having a problem with these people since I moved down here about getting in my yard. They slept in my yard. All their crackheads come by … I just wish somebody would listen to his story. Sit down and really listen.

ROY: I’ll tell you everything you need to know. I’m a humanist. I’m not here trying to hurt nobody. I even buy his dope, smoke his s---, just for argument sake. … I mean, what would you do if you was in my situation?

•••

Watch the video

Anthony Roy was born in Washington, D.C. His parents joined the Air Force when he was young, and he grew up all over the country. He attended high school in Alaska, where he and his mother say classmates hurled racial slurs at him, and he started getting into fights. In the 1980s, he moved to Los Angeles — in the middle of the Crips and Bloods feud. He was back in D.C. by the ’90s, where he installed air-conditioning systems, had a daughter and got arrested for cocaine and marijuana possession. His wife, Irene, worked for a caterer. When they moved to Clearwater, Irene’s 32-year-old daughter and 9-year-old grandson moved with them.

ROY: My uncle is from here, down here in Clearwater. I’ve been coming down here since 2004. I would come here to get away from the pressures of D.C. And then, when I got tired of D.C., I said, “I’m moving to Florida.”

QUARLES: We came down here to chill and relax and retire from the drama that’s going on in D.C. Too much killing. We wanted to come where it’s peaceful. We looked at brochures and said, “We can do this!”

F.P.O 19 Alt. Times Tampa Bay Clearwater Bay Largo Clearwater Dunedin Belleair Belleair Rd. Clearwater Largo Rd. W Bay Dr. Rosery Rd. Ulmerton Rd. Seminole 60 590 580 19 Alt. 19 60 Site of planned apartment complex Area shown PIN. 1 mile Times Tampa Bay Clearwater Bay Largo Clearwater Belleair Rd. Lakeview Rd. Woodlawn St. Ft. Harrison Ave. Dr. M.L.K. Jr. Ave. W Bay Dr. Ulmerton Rd. Seminole 590 580 19 Alt. 19 60 Belleair Area shown PIN. Anthony Roy’s house Police substation Stop-N-Shop

•••

Patricia Roy, Anthony’s mother, is a retired master sergeant in the Air Force. She lives in D.C., winters in Florida and bought the house on the corner as an investment about seven years ago. With the police substation so close, she thought it would be a nice place to rent.

PATRICIA ROY: Well, I was wrong. My first tenant, she stayed there for the whole year, and I was really surprised. And the second tenant had their hubcaps robbed, and they just moved out. I started to go over there and noticed how the guys were all out on the street. It’d be like 15 guys hanging around the house, well, on that corner. I had a third tenant move in and, Lord, she complained. She would call the police on them. And what happened was, at the end, somebody threw a rock into her bedroom window. That upset her so bad she moved out.

ANTHONY ROY: Mom couldn’t keep a tenant in the house, because of all the traffic on that corner. So I told her: “You need somebody like me to move down in there. I could live in the house. I’m not gonna be scared.”

PATRICIA ROY: My son, he’s one of those kinda guys that, you know, he can adjust to his situation. He’s very charismatic, very intelligent, likes being around people. So I figured that he would be able to handle it over there. And you know, they set up house real nice, and they were comfortable.

(Photo 1 of 4)Clearwater Police Department
A dozen people at a time would come to hang out in Roy's back yard, where he set up a canvas gazebo, a couch and cushioned chairs.
(Photo 2 of 4)CHERIE DIEZ | Times
Beside the outdoor living room, Roy built a makeshift bar, far right. Neighbors came to drink, smoke and charge their phones.
(Photo 3 of 4)CHERIE DIEZ | Times
Roy and Quarles had never had a house before they moved to Clearwater.
(Photo 4 of 4)CHERIE DIEZ | Times
Patricia Roy struggled to attract and keep renters at the house.

In their shady back yard, Anthony Roy and his wife set up a canvas gazebo with twinkling white lights, a wicker couch and cushioned chairs. A makeshift bar squatted in the sandy grass.

ROY: Me and my wife’s first house. We painted, transformed that house. Redid everything: walls, floors, bath. I wasn’t planning on ever leaving that spot. I used to love my mornings waking up right there. I mean, couldn’t nothing have been more right. And I met a lot a people. That was the one thing I liked about Florida is how people just wave at you, don’t even know you, they come up and speak to you. Thought that was all nice and fine. But the house where I lived at had a lot a drug dealers out there.

QUARLES: When I got the furniture, that’s when it really got bad. We had a tent, a bar, a smoker. I guess it was just too comfortable.

ROY: People walked up and sat in my yard like it was a park. I had homeless people, dope fiends, all that.

QUARLES: People hiding drugs in our trash can. We found a needle out there, out by the tree. We got rid of that ’cause, you know, I got grandkids. And you might find some weed. I had to put a lock on my shed to keep people from walking in. They’d unplug my freezer, my food go bad because they wanna charge a phone. They ordering meals, delivery knocking on my door. “I didn’t order that.” Then some fool come running up, “I did.” And eat it in my yard!

ROY: I would ask ’em, “Hey, can’t you go down the street with that? I’m not here to tell you what to do, or how you gotta make your living. I’m just asking you not to do it at my expense.” But half the people that ended up being my friends, weren’t my friends. They were all just trying to have somewhere to go and sit there all day and do what they do.

QUARLES: People out there in my yard cutting hair for money, using my electricity. If I wanna go out there and enjoy my own furniture, I couldn’t. You gotta step over people. You gotta tell ’em, “Look, don’t come in my yard the day I’m having company.” Everybody sitting in the yard was drug dealers, selling pills, crack. I tell ’em: “Y’all got to go. You can’t sell drugs out my yard.” When you tell them this, they get angry. We started looking for another house but couldn’t find nothing in our price range. The police seen all that going on and just didn’t do anything about it. We went to them a lot. Never nothing done.

•••

CHERIE DIEZ | Times
Patricia Roy bought the Clearwater house because it sat next to this police substation. She thought it would be a safe neighborhood, with patrol officers so close.

Over three years, Roy, Quarles and his mother say they called or talked to police in person more than a dozen times, asking for help. His mother had an officer’s number on speed dial. Police spokesman Rob Shaw said the substation is not staffed full-time. Officers stop by there, he said, to work on paperwork or hold meetings. In six visits to that corner, a Times reporter and photographer never saw anyone there.

PATRICIA ROY: I complained to the police department next door, and they told me to get a no-trespassing sign put on the property. I went downtown to see about getting the sign put up, and they told me because it wasn’t a commercial business, they couldn’t do it. The only thing that I could do was go to the Home Depot and buy a sign that says, “No Trespassing.” But that wasn’t gonna do any good.

ANTHONY ROY: If the police came around in my yard, people would come over there just to make sure I don’t say nothing. You know what I’m saying? I’m the only outsider there. I’m not from there. The police just always tell me, “I know it’s not you. It’s the people that be over there at your house.” I used to tell ’em all the time, If you see somebody doing something and they run in my yard to duck you, come up in my yard and approach ’em. You got my permission.” Maybe one police did that.

PATRICIA ROY: My son would say, “Mom, you need to put up a fence to keep ’em out, from coming in the yard.” Well, I was gonna do that, but they said it couldn’t be a 6-foot fence, because it was a corner lot, they say only a 3-foot fence. I said, “What good is that going to do?”

•••

Police logs show numerous traffic stops and drug calls around Roy’s house. Officers acknowledge that it was a “known problem area.” Chief Daniel Slaughter said people question whether officers respond to complaints in poorer neighborhoods as quickly as in more affluent areas. He said some also assume that African Americans are unwilling to cooperate with police. Officers were making arrests in Roy’s neighborhood. But those people seldom stayed in jail long.

SLAUGHTER: It’s the revolving door of justice. That breeds a culture of people not wanting to rat out other people. It’s frustrating. We spend a lot of time focusing on those chronic offenders that are well known to us. Five percent of the criminal population creates 80 percent of the crimes.

QUARLES: I started noticing somebody hanging out back there, like every day. I used to look out my kitchen window sometimes at night and see him sitting out there with some girls, on my furniture. Three o’clock in the morning.

ROY: That dude got locked up four times. Every time, he came right back to the same spot. My spot! He was constantly getting kicked out of his baby mama’s house. So he’s in my yard, sleeping under my gazebo. Slinging dope. I ask him, “You got anywhere you wanna go?” I would take this dude anywhere to get him out of my yard.

Police calls and activity at Roy's house

•••

Bernard Antonio Richards, a.k.a Big Tony, 31, grew up in Florida and played high school football. When he wasn’t in Roy and Quarles’ back yard, he stayed in an abandoned apartment nearby. He weighed close to 300 pounds and stood 5 foot 10. Roy was just as tall, but weighed half as much. Richards’ criminal record spans 16 years and includes arrests for selling cocaine and hallucinogens, battery and sexual assault.

QUARLES: My daughter, she used to hate to go out of the house because of that guy. He used to grab her and try to hug on her and pull her. She used to hide to keep him from putting his hands on her.

ROY: He pulled a gun on me twice, come up in my face showing me, “This gun right here I just bought.” He always used to make comments about my house not having nowhere to hide. He’d knock on my window 2 o’clock in the morning 'cause he see me sitting on my bed watching TV, just to let me know like, “I see you sitting right there in front of the window.”

QUARLES: We never had a gun in D.C. Never needed one. But now it’s time to do something. The police aren’t going to protect you. You gotta protect yourself. That’s why I bought the gun.

•••

Richards’ mom, Margie Mills, lives nearby. She used to manage a Popeye’s and a Burger King. Her son moved out at 16, and she didn’t see him often.

MILLS: I’m not gonna sit up and say that Tony was that type of child that’s staying outta trouble. He was a decent boy and he mind. But he also could have an attitude and get mad. He was a big boy so he could hit hard. He didn’t hit me, but he would charge at me like he wanted to. So I figured to bring him down from his high horses, I told the police on him. Sent him to jail.

BIG TONY’S FORMER GIRLFRIEND, NIKI MASON: He was actually a good person. He’d do anything for anybody if you asked him to. He was great helping me with my kids. He was working at a moving company. He’d just started a job there. He had a wonderful smile.

MILLS: He intimidated people, you know? ’Cause he’s big. I heard that they said on TV that he was arrested over 30-some times. Caught walking down the road with weed. Battery charges. Went and just jumped on somebody, you know, just to fight somebody.

MASON: He was friends with that guy whose yard they all hung out in. As far as I knew, they’d always been talking, chilling. I don’t understand what could’ve went so wrong.

•••

On July 9, 2016, a Saturday, a dozen men sat in Roy’s back yard all day. Drinking Budweisers. Smoking blunts. Roy stayed inside for a while, playing Battlefield on his Xbox. Until one of the guys coaxed him to join them for a beer. It was hot. Going on dusk when an old van pulled up. A woman got out and walked toward the men.

WOMAN: Hey! I need $30 worth.

ROY: What you want? (He stood up) Ain’t no one slinging out of my yard. I don’t care who you looking for. Don’t disrespect my yard. Take your f------ ass down the street. This is my house. I live here. These f------ n----- don’t live here. Who you here to see?

WOMAN: F--- you.

Quarles stepped out the back door.

QUARLES: We don’t sell drugs here. You get away from my yard.

WOMAN: Listen, you b---- …

ROY: I’m fed up with this s---. Who you think you are? (Roy lunged toward the woman. Other men pulled him back.) You don’t know who you f------ with.

NEIGHBOR ERIC CASON, AKA EBAY: Chill out. Chill out. It’s not worth it.

ROY: I can’t do this no more. I feel like they took over my s---. Anything I try to do, it’s not working. I’m fed up. I ain’t s--- to them. I ain’t nobody.

CASON: Calm down.

Clearwater Police Department
Roy and his wife never owned a gun when they lived in Washington D.C. But they said after Bernard Richards began harassing them, and police didn't help, they bought this Glock to protect themselves.

Roy went inside, grabbed his wife’s loaded 9mm Glock from under her pillow. He came back out, pointed the gun at the woman, who ran down the street. He chased her and fired two shots into the dirt. When he returned home, he stashed the gun, then grabbed two baseball bats. He stepped back outside, where a dozen men were still smoking and drinking. And now laughing.

ROY: I’m tired of you disrespecting me and trying to run over my s---. I’m 50 years old. I ain’t come down here for this. No man run over me. I’m gonna stand my ground … Now, unless you want to be a witness, leave. Or one of you all is gonna get your ass whooped.

RICHARDS: Who you talking to?

ROY: I’m talking to you, fat ass mother f-----. I’m tired of you.

Richards reached his right arm behind his back, into the waist of his gym shorts.

RICHARDS: Who you talking to?

ROY: I’m talking to you.

RICHARDS: Well, I got mine. You better go get yours.

Roy stomped inside, grabbed the Glock, shoved in an extended magazine. He came back out, pointed it at Richards.

ROY: I’m gonna shoot his fat ass.

CASON: No! Calm down. You ain’t gonna whip nobody’s ass. Please. Don’t do it, bro. Come on. She was asking for crack. She wasn’t asking for no nuclear weapons or no crazy s---.

Richards walked away, pulling a phone from his shorts’ pocket.

RICHARDS: You ain’t gonna do nothing to me. You ain’t got shit. I’m gonna call some people …

As he crossed the sidewalk, heading toward the Stop-N-Shop, Richards turned and shouted.

RICHARDS: Yo! Miss Irene! You better get on outta the house. I’m fixing to shoot it up!

Roy followed Richards across the street, into the convenience store parking lot.

ROY: What the f--- do you mean by that? What the f--- did you say? Ain’t no one gonna threaten my wife!

RICHARDS: I’m right here, n----. I’m right here. I ain’t scared. You say you got a gun? Use it!

ROY: Come on, n----. Come on. (Raising gun.) You still threatening me?

Richards stopped, spun to face Roy.

RICHARDS: Oh, you gonna pull it out? You better use it. Man, you gonna shoot me? You better shoot me.

He turned and took a step toward the convenience mart. Rapid gunfire pierced the night. Richards fell on his stomach in front of the store, by the trash can, blood pooling around his head. Roy fired 17 times. The bullets hit Richards’ chin, neck, chest, stomach, both shoulders, arms and legs, left hip, and back. When Roy ran out of bullets, he kicked Richards in the head. A video camera outside the convenience mart recorded his rage.

ROY: You touch my g--d--- woman, I’ll kill your ass!

Roy walked back to his house where his wife stood behind a tree, trembling. Without saying a word, he gave her the gun. They went inside, sat on the couch. While they waited for police, he held her hand.

•••

Clearwater Police Department
On July 9, 2016, witnesses heard rapid fire gunshots coming from the parking lot of the Stop N Shop convenience mart. Later, police taped off the crime scene between Roy's house, seen here, and the store, which was across the street.
Clearwater Police Department
Police say Roy's neighborhood was known as a problem area. On the night of the shooting, Roy and his neighbors had been talking about all the folks they knew there who had been murdered.

The 911 call center lit up.

OPERATOR: Clearwater police. What is your emergency?

CALLER 1: Um, there’s a shooting on Woodlawn and MLK … It was probably the whole entire clip. People started screaming.

OPERATOR: How many shots did you hear?

CALLER 1: Like 10, maybe a little more.

OPERATOR: Clearwater police. What is your emergency?

CALLER 2: I was in my car, and I was backing out. But the guy, whoever he was arguing with, went across the store. So I ran back in the store for my own safety, okay. Pop, pop, pop. And he is not moving.

OPERATOR: Clearwater police …

AMBULANCE DRIVER: Rescue is responding … for gunshot trauma.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

AMBULANCE DRIVER: This was outside the front of the store. He said they heard a gunshot and now there’s a guy … he thinks he’s dead.

Clearwater Police Department
Bernard Richards, aka Big Tony, died just outside the door of the convenience store. His body is surrounded by yellow markers, indicating where the 17 bullet casings landed.
Clearwater Police Department
Roy was sure that Richards had a gun in the pocket of his gym shorts. But police found only a couple of dollars, a green lighter and a nickel.

Later that night, just after 10 o’clock, red and blue police lights striped the corner. Officers wrapped the parking lot in yellow crime scene tape and started interviewing witnesses. Richards’ body lay on the ground. Police found a green lighter in his pocket, a baggie with what looked like marijuana and one nickel. But no gun.

STOP-N-SHOP MANAGER REDOUNE BOUSNTRA: So we’re working in the store and this girl, she went to drive her car. She came back, “Red, Red, they’re fighting outside.” I grab my phone and call you guys, the police. I lock the door. I heard: Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop!

OFFICER: This gentleman, the victim there that’s dead, do you know him?

BOUSNTRA: Yeah, he come by the store. He’s always shopping. He buys the chips, he buys soda. He’s always there. He just lives across the street.

OFFICER: Was he in the store tonight?

BOUSNTRA: Yeah, he was at the store right before that happened, like an hour maybe, I’m not sure. He comes in the store 10 times a day, you know? He was always quiet.

OFFICER: Did he seem agitated?

BOUSNTRA: No. I seen him happy. He was just talking on the phone, buying, paying me. “Alright, Red! Have a good one.” That’s it.

ICE CREAM MAN STEVEN MONROE: So I heard those two arguing … going back and forth. So then the next thing you know, he come walking cross the street with the gun in his hand.

OFFICER: You could see the gun in his hand?

MONROE: Yeah. He pointed it straight at him, and then Tony, like, threw his hands up and got mad. He’s like, “Man, you gonna shoot me? Go on and shoot me then.” Turn around, and then he did, like, boom, boom, boom … And then he just fell to the ground.

OFFICER: And you never saw if Big Tony had a firearm?

MONROE: I didn’t see nothing in his hand.

CASON: And bro came out with the baseball bats. He said nobody was gonna do anything to him. Then he came out with the gun. But he wasn’t gonna shoot Tony. Not until he said Miss Irene’s name.

OFFICER: Who said that?

CASON: Tony tell Miss Irene, “When I come back, you better be outside the house.”

OFFICER: So he did threaten Miss Irene?

CASON: He did, yeah.

OFFICER: Tell me how you would take that threat. What do you think he meant?

CASON: Ain’t nobody gonna let a man say that.

•••

Inside the police substation, on the night of the shooting, Roy was amped and angry. Quarles looked exhausted.

ROY: He held us hostage too long. I’ve been telling him for years about serving people in my house.

OFFICER: Was he out there trying to sling today?

ROY: Every day. That’s what he do. I gotta fight these n----- every day. In my yard. Ain’t nobody helping me. I’m out here by myself. You hear me? I was always the one that backed down. Let him get his way. I got tired of it. … I swear to God if I could bring that stupid son of a bitch back, fat bastard. But when he said that s--- about my old lady, I snapped. I’m not gonna let these n----- run me, man. I’m gonna stand my ground. You understand?

OFFICER: I understand. Makes sense.

Clearwater Police Department
Roy spent most of his adult years in Washington, D.C. He convinced his wife to move to Florida to get away from all the killing.
Clearwater Police Department
In an evidence photo taken just after the shooting, Roy displays tattoos which honor his D.C. neighborhood, his African-American heritage, and, on his left wrist, his mother.

ROY: What I’m supposed to do? Sit there and wait for this fool to shoot me? I ain’t gonna play that. I’m a bonafide street motherf-----. You understand? I’m old school. I went through a lot of s---. I made it here. … And now I threw away my life for this f---ass n----. I’m sorry. I can’t take it back.

OFFICER: Did he have a gun on him tonight?

ROY: I didn’t see it. But he act like he did. I thought he was serious about his s---. He came at me.

OFFICER: You did what you thought you had to do. I understand.

ROY: I had to protect my old lady. I’m worried about my family. … Tell Irene I’m sorry.

•••

After the shooting, three women struggled to cope. And hoped for justice.

(Photo 1 of 5)CHERIE DIEZ | Times
Margie Mills holds a photo of her son, Bernard Richards, in her Clearwater apartment.
(Photo 2 of 5)CHERIE DIEZ | Times
After Richards was killed, his mother built a shrine to him next to her TV.
(Photo 3 of 5)CHERIE DIEZ | Times
A picture of Richards as a boy hangs next to portraits of other family members in Mills’ home.
(Photo 4 of 5)CHERIE DIEZ | Times
Richards played football growing up, and his mom says opponents were always fearful of being tackled by him.
(Photo 5 of 5)CHERIE DIEZ | Times
Richards was the oldest of Mills’ three children. He had a brother and a sister.

In Margie Mills’ apartment, a bible lay on the table, a portrait of MLK hung on the wall. On the floor by the TV, she had created a shrine to her son: a photo of Richards and the program from his funeral.

MILLS: I dropped the phone. I fell backwards. I didn’t know what to do. I’ll never see my son ever again. Never have an argument with him again. I’m gonna miss that.

She sobbed as she recounted her son’s funeral.

MILLS: They just had all these blankets around his body, torn apart. I would say 50, maybe 60 people there. Tony’s grandmother, she were there, and the aunts were there, my brother. And of course I broke down. My last chance to see him.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times
When people took over their yard, Irene Quarles often hid inside her home with her daughter and grandson.

Irene Quarles still had to deal with people squatting in her back yard, plugging their cell phones into her outlets. She was terrified to confront them. Devastated to have lost her husband to jail.

QUARLES: He was just … got pushed too far. People just trying to disrespect him. My husband did what he did to protect his family.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times
Patricia Roy visited her son often in jail, via video. She sold the Clearwater house to pay for his legal defense.

Patricia Roy was in D.C. when she got the call but quickly flew to Florida to see her son.

PATRICIA ROY: Irene, she told me that (Anthony) had shot a man. First thing I thought, “Is he dead? Or is he just shot?” I didn’t raise him for this type of thing to happen to him, you know?

I didn’t know of an attorney. The only person I thought of was a person who worked for the Justice Department. So I called and asked did she know anyone I could get to defend him? The lawyer said, “What do you want?” I said: “I don’t want my son to be, what do you call it? I can’t … electrocuted.”

•••

CHERIE DIEZ | Times
During a court hearing, attorney Lee Pearlman, left, tries to convince Roy that he should take his case to trial. Roy is charged with first-degree murder, facing life in prison. But Pearlman thinks he could convince a jury it was self-defense.

Roy hired Lee Pearlman to defend her son. He told her that it isn’t a stand your ground case, because Anthony Roy left his property.

PEARLMAN: This case is about a man defending his family in a circumstance that nobody ever wants to be in, which is a person who has made it clear to you they are going to come back and shoot your house up. What was the right way to react? Does a jury believe that this was an imminent threat? The defense would be focused entirely around that: an argument of self-defense.

The greatest hope is we have a case where we can put this to a jury, potentially, and reach a not-guilty verdict. That’s our best-case scenario. The worse-case scenario is, potentially, the death penalty.

One potential version is that these two were friends, and this was just a bad day for Mr. Roy. Is that validated by somebody who allegedly shoots somebody 17 times? Or is this something that has been building for a long period of time and results in this outcome, because my client couldn’t get help from the police?

Slaughter, the police chief, said officers were frustrated, too.

SLAUGHTER: It’s not like someone is saying this neighborhood, this problem, isn’t important. We engage with the neighborhood, increase our visibility. There’s just a whole resource constraint. Anyone who has a drug house in their neighborhood says the police aren’t working fast enough. … Dealing drugs, however, is not a legitimate explanation to assassinate another human being.

PEARLMAN: It’s a brutal video. You see the outcome of what that was, but you don’t see the lead-up. The context is so important. This person continues to be arrested, continues to come back on his property. This is a man who, over and over, comes to his window, knocks. “Man, you ain’t got no cover in here. Somebody opens fire, where you gonna go?”

If you had that kind of emotional stress over you and you’re looking at your wife, the person that you love, your kids, the people you’re responsible for caring for, what does that do to you?

CHERIE DIEZ | Times
Roy's lawyer hired private investigator Jeff Barker to help work the case. He said Roy is the oldest person he has helped defend.

PEARLMAN’S INVESTIGATOR, JEFF BARKER: I took this case because I could see myself in this man’s position, as a parent and, you know, protector, so to speak, of my family. I think for anyone, if you’ve been threatened enough, there comes a breaking point.

PEARLMAN: For me to be able to articulate that to a jury …

BARKER: If he would have done this five minutes earlier, when the guy was on his property, it would have been more of a justified-type thing.

PEARLMAN: There’s differences between stand your ground and self-defense. Stand your ground is a basic legal defense that the judge makes. Self-defense is a jury question. So we try for self-defense and hope to get manslaughter. With manslaughter, you reduce the minimum mandatory sentencing to 12 or 13 years.

Prosecutor Scott Rosenwasser said Roy was charged with first-degree murder because the shooting seemed premeditated. After Richards’ threat, Roy went back inside. Loaded the extra clip. Followed Richards across the street. The prosecutor said Pearlman offered 15 years for a guilty plea.

ROSENWASSER: That’s not even close to the ballpark. If they want to make another offer, we’d consider it. But he’s facing life.

•••

CHERIE DIEZ | Times
At Carnegie & Dallas Funeral Services, Theodore R. Dallas IV hands Margie Mills the urn with her son's ashes. She added it to the little altar she made for him at her home.

Nearly a year after the shooting, Mills drove her Jazzy scooter a mile to the funeral home to pick up her son’s urn. She added his ashes to the memorial beside her TV.

MILLS: I just want (Roy) to be in there for life. He need to sit back and think about everything he take away from me. Not just even my family, even if he could step back and see he done took it away from his own family.

For a time, Patricia Roy visited her son twice a week. She gained 20 pounds from the stress. In May, she headed back to D.C. — and sold the house on the corner to pay for her son’s defense.

PATRICIA ROY: I wake up and say, this is not really happening. And then I have to go see him behind that screen. Oh, it just tears me up to see him like that. Couldn’t you have done something else?

CHERIE DIEZ | Times
After the shooting, people kept hanging out in Irene's yard. She was glad to move into a mobile home in a new neighborhood.

Quarles left the corner behind and moved with her daughter and grandson to a trailer. She looks emaciated, having lost 50 pounds. Her walls are covered with drawings her husband sends: The Obamas, Muhammad Ali, an angel saying, “Do all the good that you can as long as you can.”

QUARLES: I visit him three times a week or more. My new mobile home is, like, three blocks from the jail.

It took us almost a year to sell that house ’cause a lotta people that came, they just didn’t like the area. Too much hanging out in the front of the store, across the street.

I never said he shouldn’t go to jail. I just don’t think it’s fair for the time they’re trying to give him for protecting his family. Because I think if the shoe’s on the other foot, they woulda done the same thing.

•••

In the Pinellas County jail, Roy met with his lawyer over the summer.

PEARLMAN: The prosecution is at 25 years. There was a discussion about potentially coming down to 20, but … If you feel like you’re going to die in jail anyway … We’ve got nothing to lose by going to trial.

ROY: A jury? No way. They can’t put their self in my place or what I’ve been through. Three years I put up with that crap. No human being should have to tiptoe around another person, be scared to even come around that person. The worst thing you wanna do is scare somebody to the point where you got ’em so scared, they’ll mess around and kill you. ... Nobody wants to die … A jury don’t even care about what his record is … With what they got on video, I wouldn’t risk that … Even though, if I had the right jury …

CHERIE DIEZ | Times
Roy worries the video from the convenience mart is too damaging to go to trial. He doesn't think jurors would understand what he went through during the three years before the shooting.

In August, Roy stood before the judge in a Pinellas County courtroom. During the last year in jail, he shaved his head. His goatee went gray. And beneath his left eye he had another inmate etch a tattoo: A tear drop.

PEARLMAN: My last offer was 18 years, and that was rejected. I’m going to make another offer … but I’d also like to set a trial date.

JUDGE NANCY MOATE LEY: Are there a lot of witnesses?

PEARLMAN: Probably 10 to 15.

The judge scheduled a trial for April. Rosenwasser has agreed to meet again, to talk about a plea bargain. Pearlman has offered to take Roy’s case to trial, pro bono.

PEARLMAN: There are assumptions that get made about people. Issues of race and class always play a factor. There was a growing tension in that neighborhood, but nothing was done about it. I can’t think of too many situations in other areas that wouldn’t warrant a response.

Roy is not optimistic about his chances. He’s in poor health, and at his age, a long prison term feels like a death sentence.

He already lost his freedom, his wife, his little house on the corner.

About the story

Over the last year, reporter Lane DeGregory and photographer Cherie Diez met with more than a dozen people, talked to residents, relatives and friends, police, a private investigator and prosecutors. They watched videos of the shooting, of interrogations and depositions.

They spent time at the scene, interviewed Roy in jail, scoured hundreds of pages of documents.

The direct quotes came from different interviews, times and places.

About the reporters

Lane DeGregory
is a Pulitzer Prize-winning Tampa Bay Times reporter who prefers writing about people in the shadows. Lane graduated from the University of Virginia, where she was editor in chief of the Cavalier Daily student newspaper. Later, she earned a master's degree in rhetoric and communication studies from the University of Virginia. She previously worked for the Daily Progress and The Virginian-Pilot and moved to Florida in 2000 to write for the Times. She has won dozens of national awards, including twice winning Scripps Howard’s Ernie Pyle Award for human interest writing, eight National Headliner Awards and been recognized eight times by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. She teaches at the University of South Florida, the Poynter Institute and journalism conferences across the world. Contact her at [email protected] or (727) 893-8825.
Cherie Diez
is a Tampa native, third generation, with family roots going back to Sicily and Spain. She’s been a photographer at the Times since graduating from the University of South Florida, immersing herself in numerous award-winning documentary projects and covering social issues, including child welfare, life in New York City after 9/11 and a year in the life of an Alzheimer’s support group. As a narrative photojournalist and video producer, she uses the camera to capture fleeting moments that reveal so much about a life and our world. In 2016, she collaborated with reporter Lane DeGregory on the “The Long Fall of Phoebe Jonchuck,” the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting and the last delivery of a retiring Tampa OB/GYN. In the past, Diez has followed a local student to the Broadway stage and documented the idea of sin with the reopening of Bourbon Street after Hurricane Katrina. She’s followed pit bulls to their deaths and an exorcist on her wedding day. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her at @CherieDiez on Twitter, Cherie Diez on Facebook, and cheriediez on Instagram.

Additional credits

  • Editors Stephanie Hayes and Maria Carrillo
  • Photo editor Patty Yablonski
  • Video editor Danese Kenon
  • Story design Lyra Solochek and Lauren Flannery
  • Research Caryn Baird