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Manslaughter trial opens with teenager recalling shooting in Valrico neighborhood

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Published Nov. 15, 2012

TAMPA — In two years, Spencer Arthur has sprouted. He is a lanky, homeschooled junior now. "I was much shorter," he said, when he was 14 and saw a man shot to death after defending the boy's right to skateboard on a Valrico basketball court.

The trauma, though, was still evident as Arthur testified Wednesday in the manslaughter trial of 71-year-old Trevor Dooley, a former school bus driver who shot his neighbor in 2010.

The teenager bowed his head and held his hands over his eyes as jurors heard the call Arthur made to 911 on a sleepy September Sunday.

"It was my fault," Arthur sobbed to the 911 dispatcher. "The person who shot him was mad because I was skateboarding."

Dooley's trial began Wednesday after six jurors and two alternates were winnowed from a pool of 50. The prospective jurors had indicated overwhelming support for Florida's "stand your ground" law, which has been invoked in the case. Only two prospective jurors, neither of whom made the final cut, said they didn't like the law.

Dooley's defense attorney portrayed him as a frail senior citizen who limps from an old work accident, nurses a sore shoulder, and is "a creature of habit." Dooley routinely kept a gun in his pants pocket, even when he folded his jeans away at night. He used it only to save his life, his attorney, Ronald Tulin, said.

On Sept. 26, 2010, Dooley admits, he shot his 41-year-old neighbor, David James, who had been shooting hoops with his 8-year-old daughter, Danielle, at the community park in Twin Lakes.

Dooley and James had argued after Dooley had crossed the street to shoo the skateboarder off the court.

A married couple playing tennis nearby is expected to testify that Dooley lifted his T-shirt and flashed a gun in his waistband as he argued with James, but Arthur didn't see that.

Arthur said Dooley had bid James goodbye with a "screw you," and had turned to walk home. The teenager said James followed Dooley, saying "I'm not done."

At that point, Arthur said, Dooley turned back and pointed the gun at James.

He said he saw James try to push away the gun, then the two men went down on the ground. James, who was over 6 feet tall and weighed 240 pounds, landed on top.

"Then," Arthur said, "there was a shot."

Danielle, James' daughter, will be called as a defense witness. She has said she heard Dooley say, "I don't want to fight" before he turned away, and she never saw a gun.

At the close of testimony Wednesday, sheriff's deputies and paramedics described how they found her:

Unable to speak.

Just staring at her father's body stretched out on the grass drenched in blood.

John Barry can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or