SPRING HILL — Every time Derek Redmond closes his eyes, he relives the same nightmare. Except it wasn’t a nightmare, it was real. He struggles to sleep, saying he just sees the shooting again whenever he tries. His doctors told him that crying could make his eye injuries worse. But after such a gruesome tragedy, he said, sometimes that is the only thing he can do.
Redmond, 45, is a survivor of a May 17 shooting in Spring Hill that took the lives of his father and his dog, left his 15-year-old nephew unconscious for weeks in the hospital and nearly blinded him. It happened at his home on Bathurst Avenue.
Steven Laporta, the man Redmond identified to Pasco County Sheriff’s Office deputies as the shooter, was indicted by a grand jury June 9 on charges that include first-degree murder, attempted murder and cruelty to animals. He faces the death penalty.
Laporta, 36, had been a family friend for more than 25 years, according to Redmond. He said that Laporta, known as “Pounds,” had spent Christmas with the family many years and referred to Redmond’s dad as “Dad.” Laporta even was at the hospital when Redmond’s nephew was born.
On May 17, Laporta injected himself with methamphetamine in Redmond’s bedroom while Redmond smoked marijuana, according to court documents. Deputies said that after injecting the meth Laporta referred to himself as “God” and the “angel of death.”
Eventually, Redmond leaned back in his black leather recliner and fell asleep. The family’s 9-year-old pit bull, C.J. — who had been with them since she was a puppy — slept on the floor beside him.
He said Laporta had a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun with him that night. Redmond had a gun in his father’s room. In the past, he and Laporta would sometimes shoot the weapons in the backyard. It was normal, Redmond said, to hear gunshots in their neighborhood as people often fired for fun.
But the sound that jolted Redmond awake wasn’t that typical outdoor gunshot. He said he woke up to see Laporta had shot C.J. — her blood was splattered on the walls, and there was a hole in the floorboard from the bullet.
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After shooting C.J., according to Redmond, Laporta said, “It was her time.”
Redmond and his father, John Redmond, 71, angrily told Laporta to leave. He did, briefly.
Redmond said he told his dad to load their gun. He was worried if Laporta would do anything else. John Redmond said there was nothing more to worry about — the family trusted Laporta. So their gun stayed in the bedroom.
Laporta wasn’t able to start his truck, so he came back — gun in hand, Redmond said. He said he remembers Laporta pointing the weapon at him, up against his forehead.
As Redmond tried to push the gun away, he says Laporta fired and struck Redmond between his nose and right eye. As he went down to the ground, Redmond was shot a second time, this time the bullet hitting near his right ear.
Redmond said the pain was maybe the worst he’s ever felt. He said he couldn’t move his fingers or toes at first, and it felt as if someone had put a hot iron in his eye.
“I thought I was dead,” Redmond said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it.”
On the ground, Redmond could see his father come after Laporta. They wrestled, Redmond said, but his dad wasn’t able to get ahold of Laporta’s gun. Redmond said his dad then tripped and fell over a loveseat in the living room.
Redmond said he could only watch as his dad was shot six times.
Laporta then moved down the hall toward 15-year-old Chase Fisher’s room, Redmond said, and then he heard gunshots. Two of them. Brittany Schrager, Redmond’s stepsister, said the bullets hit the frontal lobe of Fisher’s brain and went out the parietal lobe on the right side.
Laporta walked back to the front door after Fisher was shot, Redmond said. Redmond was still lying there. He said he was playing dead. But he said Laporta pointed the gun at his head as he walked out. Laporta pulled the trigger, Redmond said, but nothing fired. The clip was empty.
Redmond knows he’s lucky to be alive.
After Laporta left, Redmond said he got up and went to check on his dad. He said his father gasped and told him to go check on Fisher.
Redmond did. But by the time he came back to the living room, he said, his dad was dead. He didn’t get to say goodbye.
John Redmond’s funeral was June 5. Derek Redmond said his dad would always drop everything for others. On the night John Redmond was killed, he had filled a gas can for Laporta’s empty truck tank.
“That was my best friend,” Redmond said of his dad. “They don’t make ‘em no better than that.”
Derek Redmond said he used to think survivor’s guilt wasn’t real. But with the flashbacks of that night playing in his mind whenever he tries to sleep, he said he feels so much guilt now.
“I’d trade spots with either of them every day,” Redmond said.
Three days after he laid his father to rest, Redmond showed the Tampa Bay Times the scene. His family had recently finished cleaning blood off the walls. Schrager said that while cleaning, the house smelled like iron.
Redmond doesn’t want to be home alone now, saying every little noise scares him. He can hardly even bear to be in his home.
Out behind the house, the remains of a mattress and loveseat could be seen in a firepit. Redmond said Fisher was on the mattress when he was shot, and John Redmond had died near the loveseat.
Redmond has adjusted to his greatly reduced vision — he lost his right eye and only has 5% vision in the left now. He wears an eyepatch with a piece of gauze underneath to protect the empty socket. He has a small lens where his eyeball used to be. Every time he cries, he said, the lens falls out.
He and his family members have also spent the weeks since the shooting visiting Fisher in the hospital.
Schrager said in a text that doctors initially told the family Fisher would never regain consciousness. But in late June, he woke up.
Schrager said the teen can’t speak, but he understands people talking to him and is “able to respond using his eyes.”
“You can see the frustration in the tears in his eyes when he tries to speak and is unable to,” Schrager said. “John made the ultimate sacrifice that night when he fought back and tried to protect his son and grandson and I know he must have had something to do with Chase waking up.”
Fisher will be moved to a long-term care facility in Miami, she said.
“Chase is absolutely still there and I know he will continue to fight,” Schrager said.