Man involved in Valrico shooting charged with manslaughter

December 14th, 2010 by Staff VALRICO – For 48 hours, the family of David James had to cope with questions.

Why was the 41-year-old Iraq war veteran gunned down in front of his 8-year-old daughter?

Why was the man deputies say killed him, in a dispute over a teen skateboarding, allowed to remain free and continue working with children?

Tuesday afternoon, some of those questions were answered.

Trevor Dooley, 69, was arrested and charged with manslaughter for the Sunday killing of James, 41, an Iraq war veteran who was playing basketball with his daughter, Danielle, at a Valrico park. Dooley also charged with improper exhibition of a firearm and openly carrying a firearm. He is being held at Orient Road Jail with no bail, according to jail records.

The arrest took time because there were conflicting witness statements that required thorough investigation, said Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputy chief Jose Docobo at an afternoon news conference.

Asked about frustrations from James’ family, and the public, over why Dooley was not arrested immediately after the shooting, Docobo said it was hard for even him, a veteran law enforcement officer, “to make that connection.”

But investigators could not let emotions overcome them, Docobo said.

“We had to make sure justice is done,” he said.

One witness saw Dooley – who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon — take his gun out and point it at James, Docobo said. One just saw his hand move toward the gun. Another witness did not see the gun come out, he said.

Though a small pocket knife was found at the park, there was no indication it belonged to James, Docobo said.

Prosecutors, Docobo said, made the ultimate call to charge Dooley with manslaughter instead of a more serious charge of first- or second-degree murder.

Dooley is a school bus driver for the Hillsborough School district whose routes took him through the Twin Lakes subdivision in Valrico where the shooting took place. He was allowed to keep driving Monday because the sheriff’s office “screwed up” and failed to tell school officials that Dooley had shot someone, Docobo said.

HCSO, he said, should have notified the school district and “allow them to make their own decision” about whether Dooley should be allowed to transport children the day after witnesses say he shot James to death.

Tuesday morning, the district temporarily reassigned Dooley to administrative duty. Dooley’s wife, Patricia, also is a school bus driver who drove through the subdivision. Her route has been changed, school officials said.

After his arrest, Dooley was suspended with pay, according to school spokeswoman Linda Cobbe. Officials will try to determine whether he can be suspended without pay at an upcoming school board meeting. Typically, Cobbe said, personnel accused of a crime are suspended without pay until the outcome of the legal process.

There’s one question that hasn’t been answered yet: Why did Dooley point a gun at James. He didn’t talk to investigators Sunday, and Docobo said he didn’t talk Tuesday.

The fatal shooting occurred around 4 p.m. Sunday after James had given a 14-year-old permission to skateboard in the park, according to a police report.

According to the report:

Dooley saw James give permission and came out of his house armed with a firearm and told the teen he was not allowed to skateboard there.

James pointed out that there were no signs prohibiting skateboarding.

Dooley then left his driveway, walked across Partridge Point Trail and approached James.

As Dooley walked over to him, James stepped off the edge of the basketball court and walked toward Dooley in the grass.

Dooley showed James the handle of the firearm in his waistband and kept insisting no skateboarding was allowed.

When Dooley realized that James was not going to tell the teen to stop skateboarding, he cursed at James and started walking away.

James called out to Dooley, asking why he was showing his gun.

Dooley turned around, pointed the gun at James, who lunged forward to grab the weapon.

The two men struggled over the firearm, then fell to the ground and the gun went off, striking James once in the chest.

James told his daughter to call an ambulance. He then collapsed.

A witness ran to help James and called 911.

Dooley remained at the scene and unloaded his weapon before deputies arrived.

James was pronounced dead at the scene by Emergency Medical Services.

Kanina James, 41, wife of David James, and his friend Jay Lovelace, 51, of Tampa, spoke Tuesday at a news conference at the family’s home in the Twin Lakes subdivision of Valrico.

Kanina James held a photo of her husband throughout the news conference.

James said she’s happy that the shooter has been arrested and charged, but said she would like to see the charges upgraded.

“I want it to be first degree,” James said. “I’m really hoping for that.”

James said daughter Danielle is asking where her father is. James plans to seek the professional help of a child psychologist.

Like the rest of her family, Danielle has questions of her own, Lovelace said.

“No 8-year-old girl should have to see her father – her best friend – shot to death in front of her,” Lovelace said. “It’s something she will never forget. It’s something none of us will ever forget.”

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