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Killing a man in a St. Petersburg parking spot dispute is ‘insane’ | Column
One man is a dead another faces a second-degree murder charge.
Crime scene tape
Crime scene tape
Published Oct. 7

At some point it is altogether likely Charles Edward Bentley will take his place in the Florida state corrections system. Perhaps on his first day in the clink, his cellmate may inquire, “So what are you in for?”

And the woeful Mr. Bentley will explain he will be spending a better part of the rest of his life for shooting a man to death — over a dispute involving (wait for it) a St. Petersburg parking spot.

Columnist Daniel Ruth
Columnist Daniel Ruth [ Tampa Bay Times ]

A parking spot. A single, stupid, inane — parking spot.

One man will go to prison and another to his grave — all over a parking spot. This. Is. Insane.

Last Saturday, Gilbert Ray Bush was attempting to pull his vehicle into a parking space in the 200 block of First Avenue N, according to police. There was one problem. Charles Edward Bentley was standing in the space with a group of friends.

Presumably a dispute arose. Bush wanted to park his car. Bentley wanted to continue to occupy the space in the absence of a car.

Now there was a time not all that long ago when issues like this would be resolved with a few well-crafted F-bombs or even, taken to its ugliest extreme, maybe a bit of breast-thumping and shoving.

Alas, Bentley preferred to assert himself as the rightful heir to a (sigh) parking spot by fatally shooting Bush — multiple times, the police say.

Did we mention this was all over a parking space?

Let’s ponder this for a moment, which is obviously something Bentley could have used a bit more of before pulling the trigger. Pondering. It can be very useful sometimes.

Facing a second-degree murder charge, Bentley is potentially looking at decades behind bars in the unforgiving world of prison life.

Or perhaps put another way. Every day, every week, every month for years and years and years to come, Charles Edward Bentley will wake up in a cage and be reminded he has become just another number in a Florida prison because he shot another man over a senseless argument involving a parking space.

That is cruel and unusual self-inflicted punishment.

The FBI has reported that homicides in the United States increased 30 percent from 2019 to 2020. Some experts have attributed the jump to COVID-related stress, fewer opportunities and too much time on young people’s hands.

That’s all probably true, although it is hard to fathom some 23-year-old deciding to shoot another human over a parking space spat because he was simply bored.

One might also argue Bentley is in the legal pickle he is in because of the ready availability of guns throughout our society. Had Bentley not possessed a weapon it is entirely possible the worst that might have happened to Bush was a fat lip, which certainly seems much more preferable to a body bag.

We should also fear this sort of outcome to an argument is only going to get worse — far worse.

After all, since as Texas marches ever backward to the 14th century, Florida will eagerly follow along to reach its long-term goal of being even stupider than the Boneheaded State.

Florida is moving ahead to impose draconian limits (ban) on a woman’s right to an abortion, just as Texas has done. And since Texas recently enacted a law that allows people to openly carry a handgun without any training or a permit, it is inevitable Florida will follow suit.

The obvious result will see all manner of yahoos, morons, rednecks, goobers and bumpkins parading around the street brandishing their little friends.

And it will also mean more fatal violence over parking space disputes, road rage incidents, perhaps even grocery cart collisions.

Charles Edward Bentley isn’t an outlier. He is the future.

Oh the sanctity of life so beloved by Texas and Florida pols! Isn’t it a pip? Don’t even think about getting an abortion. But don’t forget your gun when you leave the house. So much to be enraged about. So little common sense.

One suspects when Gilbert Bush left home for downtown St. Petersburg Saturday, perhaps he fretted, as many of us do, where he would park his car in one of the city’s busiest areas. One also suspects he never considered the prospect he would wind up dead when he met Charles Bentley.

Now Bush’s family is preoccupied with planning a funeral, while Bentley faces the challenge of planning a defense strategy. Good luck with that.

All because of a parking space.