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Tampa Criminal Attorney > Blog > Criminal Defense > Authorities File Charges in Alleged Hate Crime Murder

Authorities File Charges in Alleged Hate Crime Murder


Following a month-long investigation, a 65-year-old man was taken into custody and charged with second-degree murder with a hate crime enhancement for the killing of a 52-year-old man at the West Dog Park in Tampa in February 2024.

The arrestee initially told police he killed the man in self-defense. But an investigation undermined that claim. Friends told police the defendant harassed the victim, and even made death threats, for over a year, mostly about his sexual orientation. “He screams and hollers and calls him a f*gg*t every time he gets to the dog park. He’ll sit there and he’ll say, ‘I’d like to punch him right in the f*ck*ng mouth,’” one person said.

“This case is an example of our detectives’ commitment to seeking justice and uncovering the truth,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement announcing the arrest. “They did not let those initial statements derail them from staying focused on this investigation.”

Criminal Law Investigations

Lengthy criminal investigations normally have many moving parts. That’s especially true if, as is usually the case, multiple agencies collaborate. Multiple law enforcement agencies often work parallel to each other instead of with each other.

As a result, these investigations often feature procedural violations, mostly Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations.

Officers normally execute search warrants to find murder weapons and other physical evidence. These warrants are invalid unless officers had probable cause for the search prior to executing the warrant.

Court prosecutors cannot work backwards. They cannot argue that, since officers found what they were looking for, they had probable cause to search the dwelling or other building. The information had to be reliable at the time the judge signed the warrant application.

“Reliability” has a very specific meaning in this context, especially when the warrant application heavily relies on paid informant testimony. Many people will say practically anything for love (leniency in another legal matter) or money (a cash payment). So, these statements are almost inherently unreliable, at least without corroborating proof.

Next, authorities often use the seized evidence as leverage when they interrogate a suspect. If they use this common tactic, any confession or other statement they obtain is fruit from a poisonous tree and therefore inadmissible.

The confession itself may be inadmissible as well, if officers didn’t read the Miranda warning. They must read suspects their rights before they ask questions, assuming (as is usually the case) the suspect didn’t feel free to leave.

Hate Crimes Enhancements

Procedural defenses also derail penalty enhancements, like the hate crimes enhancement. Penalty enhancements are irrelevant if the underlying charges don’t hold up in court.

Many Tampa criminal defense lawyers have argued that the hate crimes enhancement is unconstitutionally vague. It applies not if the defendant displays animus for a certain group, but if the defendant targeted the victim because of his/her:

  • Gender,
  • Ethnicity,
  • Sexual orientation,
  • National origin, or
  • Religious affiliation.

Furthermore, authorities add convicted “hate crime” offenders to a government database. No one is sure what the government uses this database for.

Critically, prosecutors must link the enhancement to the crime. Many people have strong feelings about certain groups. Strong feelings aren’t illegal.

 Reach Out to a Diligent Hillsborough County Attorney

A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. After-hours and jail visits are available.



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