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Crime & Courts

Dooley guilty of manslaughter, blames racism for verdict

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Published:   |   Updated: March 14, 2013 at 01:38 AM
TAMPA -

For Trevor Dooley, his aggravated manslaughter conviction was all about race.

"Imagine," he told reporters, "a 240-pound, 6-foot-1 black man on the court with his daughter playing basketball. A little white man, 160 pounds, came out for any reason whatsoever. The black man attacked the white man. And the white man shot him …

David James, Dooley continued, "brought it on himself. I tried to go home. I walked away. Do you really think if it was the other way around and the skin color was different, we would be here today? We wouldn't."

Jurors deliberated less than two hours before convicting Dooley, 71, of manslaughter with a weapon — the charge carries up to 30 years behind bars — as well as two weapons offenses in the Sept. 25, 2010, shooting death of David James, 41, at the Twin Lakes recreational park in Valrico.

Dooley's wife, Patricia, collapsed in emotion after the verdict was announced late Monday, but Dooley had no reaction. He will remain free until sentencing on Jan. 10.

The victim's wife, Kanina James, wept quietly. She said later she wasn't surprised at the verdict but had been worried.

The verdict "won't bring my husband back," she said, "but I'm happy."

She said Dooley is "getting somewhat what he deserves. … I hope he spends the rest of his life in jail and I hope he's miserable."

Dooley testified in his own defense earlier Monday, telling jurors that James "gave me no other choice" but to shoot him.

Dooley said he shot the much younger, bigger victim in self-defense during a confrontation over a skateboarder who was using the basketball court. Witnesses said Dooley flashed his gun and then pulled it, prompting a struggle over the gun that left James dead.

Dooley testified he had no interest in a physical confrontation, and only shot James because James was choking him.

"He gave me no other choice," Dooley said. "He was killing me. He had me by the neck. I couldn't breathe. He tried to take the gun away from me. If he took the gun away from me, what do you think he would have done with it? I had no other choice. … I was on my way home. … That's all I wanted to do."

Dooley said the reason he yelled at 14-year-old skateboarder Spencer Arthur in the first place was the basketball court had recently been resurfaced, and "it cost a lot of money."

Dooley said he yelled to the boy from his house, and when James started demanding to know where the signs prohibiting skateboarding were, he walked over intending to explain that the boy could just use a nearby concrete pad.

James, Dooley said, was "a big man," who was loud and red-faced as he repeatedly demanded to know where the signs were.

"The only thing I said to Mr. James was, 'I'm not here to fight with you.'"

Dooley denied witness accounts that he pulled his shirt up to display his gun in his waistband. He said he never carried his gun there because it was "too close to my privates."

Dooley said he always had his gun in his right pocket of his jeans.

When James kept yelling, Dooley said, "I decided no good can come of this, so I said in a low voice, 'Screw this, I'm going home.' I turned around and started walking back to my house."

He said, given James' size, "You would be a fool to even think about" starting anything physical.

He said James followed him, however, saying, "What did you say to me? Don't walk away from me. I'm not done with you yet."

Dooley said it sounded like James was moving toward him, so he turned. Then James grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. He said he took the gun out of his pocket.

James "grabbed me by the neck," Dooley said. "He had me by the throat and he saw the gun and he said, 'How dare you pull a gun on me,' and he slammed me to the ground."

Flat on his back, Dooley said, his head was tilted back and he could see only sky, not James. "He never let go of my neck."

James' left knee was on Dooley's right knee, he said. He'd fallen on his previously injured shoulder. He said he was in extreme pain.

"I couldn't breathe," he said. "I feel like I was going to black out. I was scared. … I poked him twice with the gun because I couldn't call out to him, you're killing me here, because I couldn't say anything. I couldn't talk."

Dooley said James tried to get the gun. "I didn't want him to get the gun," he said, "I can't breathe. Choking, squeezing ... he was a strong man … I had no use of my left side, my left shoulder. It was hurt."

James, he said, pulled Dooley's right hand, the one with the gun, up. "I realized my hand was flat against his chest when he came up."

Asked by his lawyer what happened next, Dooley sighed and didn't say anything.

"Was Mr. James shot?"

"Yes. … He released my neck, stood up on both knees. His left leg slid off my right knee over my kneecap. … He stood up and put his left hand over his chest and in his voice he said, "He shot me." And he was up for five, 10 seconds, and then he collapsed on top of me."

The shooting happened in front of James' then-8-year-old daughter, Danielle, who was called as a defense witness last week. The child said Dooley tried to walk away from the confrontation, and that her father was loud.

Kanina James said Danielle, who is now 10 and lives in Minnesota with her father's sister, didn't understand that she was a defense witness.

Dooley had sought immunity from prosecution under the state's controversial "stand your ground" law.

Kanina James said she had no issue with the law. "I think it's good, but in this case, he had no right to it. If anybody did, my husband is the one who should have been the one to stand his ground."


esilvestrini@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7837 Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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