The House On The Corner The news item about the shooting was bare: one man shot another 17 times in a dispute over drugs. The actual story — of a family that feared for its safety but who couldn't rely on the police for help — was far more complicated.
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The House On The Corner

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The House On The Corner

The House On The Corner

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  • Transcript

GENE DEMBY, HOST:

So Shereen, what you getting into this Friday?

SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, HOST:

Don't be ridiculous. You know what we're doing.

DEMBY: What are we doing?

MERAJI: We have a live show at the Apollo, and we're going all out.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARACAS SHAKING)

MERAJI: Hey. It's Shereen. You're listening to CODE SWITCH. And just a heads up - we're going all out for our live taping of the podcast at Harlem's world-famous Apollo Theater in New York City on Friday, November 16.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DENICE FROHMAN: So this is "A Queer Girl's Ode To The Piraguero."

MERAJI: Nuyorican poet Denice Frohman will drop bars about someone you might refer to as the snow cone man but she calls the piraguero.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FROHMAN: Piraguero, candy cool syrup god.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MERAJI: The food talk won't stop with icy-sweet piraguas because celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson's joining us, too. Marcus traveled across the country and talked to immigrants and kids of immigrants about what they're cooking.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: So you want to see how they make the bread and...

MARCUS SAMUELSSON: A lot.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Let's go.

SAMUELSSON: This is delicious.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MERAJI: Born Ethiopian, raised Swedish, living his best life in Harlem - Marcus' restaurant has soul food and Swedish meatballs on the menu.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SAMUELSSON: When I started cooking in America, too, very often they asked, who's the chef? And I was like, I am.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Laughter).

SAMUELSSON: And they just weren't used to see a young black chef.

MERAJI: We'll ask him about all that. And we're doing a live version of Ask CODE SWITCH. We're going to answer your tricky questions about race with special guest Ashley Nicole Black, correspondent with the political comedy show "Full Frontal With Samantha Bee"

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FULL FRONTAL WITH SAMANTHA BEE")

SAMANTHA BEE: Ashley Nicole Black has more.

ASHLEY NICOLE BLACK: Black women bailed out white people again.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS COMMENTATOR: This was a miracle.

BLACK: Well, it's a miracle to Becky. For black women, it's called a Tuesday.

MERAJI: And percussionist Bobby Sanabria is going to be onstage with us all night keeping the tempo.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOBBY SANABRIA'S "JET SONG (FEAT. BOBBY SANABRIA MULTIVERSE BIG BAND)")

MERAJI: Beats, poetry, good conversation, advice and the songs giving us life. It's CODE SWITCH live at Harlem's world-famous Apollo Theater November 16. Tickets are on sale now at werkitevents.com

DEMBY: Just a note - this episode contains language that some people may find offensive.

MERAJI: This is CODE SWITCH. I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji.

DEMBY: And I'm Gene Demby.

(SOUNDBITE OF 911 CALL MONTAGE)

JESSICA: Clearwater police, this is Jessica (ph). What's your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #1: There's a shooting on Woodlawn and MLK in Belair, Fla.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #2: It's a house across the street.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #3: And we heard arguing and fussing...

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #1: Somebody's mad.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #3: ...And then shots.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #2: Bop, bop, bop, bop, bop (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #4: It sounded like a automatic. I mean, they at least shot it off, like, 12 times.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #3: I did hear screaming after the shots and then people running.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #2: He is not moving.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR #1: OK. Was he white, black or Hispanic who has the gun?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #2: He's black. He's black.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR #1: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #2: Ooh, God.

JESSICA: All right. Well, we have officers on the way. Did you want to speak to them at all?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #4: No ma'am. I don't want no problems or nothing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MERAJI: On a summer night in 2016, someone shot Bernard Antonio Richards 17 times.

DEMBY: It happened in Clearwater, Fla., on the corner of Woodlawn Street and South Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. Shortly afterwards, a suspect was in custody.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #1: Can we just start real quick, if you don't mind? What is your full name, sir?

ANTHONY ROY: Anthony James Roy - from Washington, D.C., raised in LA.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #2: And do you know the fellow that got shot?

A. ROY: Who, Fat Tony?

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #2: Yeah.

A. ROY: Yeah, I know him. I know he beat the hell out of his old lady over there - been in and out of jail for going at her.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #2: So you have any beef with anybody around here?

A. ROY: Other than - what? - strong-arming everybody?

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #2: Yeah. Is there anybody in particular?

A. ROY: Yeah, he - yeah, I mean, shit, he do what he want to do around here. You can't - you question him, he going to pull a gun. He got a gun. He pulled a gun on me twice.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #2: Do you speak with him?

A. ROY: I see him every day.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #2: But do you talk with him?

A. ROY: I talk to him every day.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #2: But you didn't have any beef with him.

A. ROY: I have in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #2: Lately?

A. ROY: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #2: And what was your beef with him about?

A. ROY: My yard - about him serving people in my house.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #2: You own a gun?

A. ROY: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #2: What kind of gun?

A. ROY: A 9.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #2: You know where it's at?

A. ROY: It's at my house.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #2: Would you have any problem with me looking at it?

A. ROY: I already know where this is going. Y'all want to know who killed that nigga?

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #2: I do.

A. ROY: I killed his ass.

DEMBY: We've all heard of black-on-black crime. Right? It comes up all the time when people are trying to change the subject away from police violence or the broken criminal justice system, you know what I mean? Like, what about black-on-black crime?

MERAJI: Uh-huh. But stats show that people are actually more likely to kill people that they know.

DEMBY: Right.

MERAJI: And we live in a racially segregated society, so homicide is also racially segregated. The overwhelming majority of white homicide victims are killed by other white people. The same is true for Latinx people and for Native people.

DEMBY: But black homicide rates are about four times as high as those of other groups. That's according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And one of the biggest reasons is policing. When we're talking about unequal policing and we're talking about black-on-black crime, in a lot of ways, we're talking about the same problem. It's true that black communities are over-policed. We all know that, right? People are stopped for these minor infractions constantly. They're having a lot of contact with the police. But in many of the ways that really matter, the people in those same communities are under-policed, which puts the people in them who need protection in a really tough spot.

MERAJI: And today we're going to get into a story that touches on all of this. On the surface, it's about a black man who killed another black man, shot him 17 times at close range.

LANE DEGREGORY: Why? That was my big thought question - why? Why would you shoot somebody 17 times at close range? Why? I mean, it's not just a drive-by. We've got a zillion drive-bys in Florida. It's not just a - I've got to take this guy out. It's like so much violence and anger being poured out bullet after bullet after bullet after bullet. Like, why?

DEMBY: That's Lane DeGregory. She reported on this case for the Tampa Bay Times. The police brief in the newspaper said it was a feud between two drug dealers. That's all she had to go on. But once Lane started digging, she found a very different story.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MERAJI: Can you tell us about the man that we heard being interrogated? His name is Anthony Roy. Who is Anthony Roy?

DEGREGORY: Anthony Roy was born in Washington, D.C. And his mom was in the Air Force, so he traveled a lot when he was young and growing up.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: My name that I go by in D.C., what all my family knew me by is Spoon.

DEGREGORY: Spoon?

A. ROY: I got that name Spoon from back when I was in LA in 1983. I used to always carry my baby spoon around. You know how you move around so much? I lost a lot of stuff, and you end up with new stuff. This was the one thing that I had that was mine that my moms had ever since I was a jit (ph).

DEGREGORY: He ended up in high school in Alaska, where he was one of the only African-American students there and apparently took a lot of bullying and taunting and got in a lot of fights. So he dropped out of high school, went to live with an uncle in LA right during the thick of the 1980s and the Crips and Blood feud. So he's kind of been around the country a lot. He came back to Washington, D.C., where he got married to a woman named Irene who worked for a caterer, and he was installing air conditioning units. And then he moved to Florida when he was 47 years old, about three years ago.

DEMBY: So like Lane said, Anthony is this military brat. He's moved around a lot. He's living in D.C., and he's married to a woman named Irene Quarles.

MERAJI: Anthony and Irene had an opportunity to move to Clearwater, Fla., to take care of this house Anthony's mom owns.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: My mother said, if you come down here and renovate this whole house, I'll let you move in it. I said, bet. I'm gone. I left. My wife came down 30 days later (laughter).

DEGREGORY: They both were excited to retire. I think they were retiring earlier than they had planned because they had this opportunity to live in this house. But Anthony had been coming to Florida for years. He'd been coming down here on vacation. So it meant vacation to him, you know? It meant, like, the endless summer-type retirement that people dream of when they think about Florida.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: I would come down here to get away from the pressures of D.C.

DEGREGORY: He talked about, you know, just being so happy when he woke up there in the morning and, like, this was his life now and this was his yard now and this was his place in the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: That was mine. That's me and my wife's first house that - you know, I used to love my mornings waking up right there. Everything could not have been more right.

DEMBY: Here's his wife, Irene.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

IRENE QUARLES: You know how you look at brochures and say, that's a nice place to be? You know, laid back, chill, retirement - we can do this.

MERAJI: One of the reasons Anthony's mom, Patricia Roy, needed so much help with the house had to do with the corner it was on, Woodlawn and MLK. Patricia says her previous tenants complained about having hubcaps from their car stolen; one said they had a brick thrown through the window; and there was a group of dudes always posted up on the corner. The house is right next to a police substation. That's one of the reasons why Patricia says she bought it. But Lane says that substation wasn't fully operating, and it was mostly empty. So...

DEMBY: That sense of peacefulness, that excitement didn't last long for Anthony and Irene. Right?

DEGREGORY: I think the beginning of the end was they got this really nice, like, outdoor furniture set, wicker couches and chairs with cushions, and they had a little makeshift bar. And it was just, like, the ultimate hangout place - little party lights, you know, around the gazebo. So pretty quickly, everybody started hanging out back there. And on the other end of the vacant lot behind them was an abandoned apartment complex, and people were squatting there. Homeless people were squatting there. So they had homeless people come over and just, like, basically sleep on their couch. And they'd wake up in the middle of night, and somebody would be out there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: You know, people walked up and sat in my yard like it was a park. I had the gazebo. It was all real nice - had got the outdoor living room furniture and all that. People used to literally come up and just sit in my yard. I had homeless people - my wife used to wake up - excuse me, excuse - wake them up in the middle of the night. They done come up and laid on my couch. Dope fiends, all that - I got all of that, all of that on that corner.

DEGREGORY: They tried to be nice to them. Miss Irene fed them sometimes, and Anthony would drink a beer with them and stuff. And they tried to, you know, be good neighbors and neighborly. But it got to be more and more people hanging out more and more often, and they couldn't get rid of them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

QUARLES: You've seen the furniture on my deck. All that would be filled up. I'd look outside on my deck, they're lounging. You say something to them, they get smart. I got tired of this every day.

A. ROY: Most of those people around there, they all have an agenda, and it's not my agenda. Out of 20 people that were my friends, I'd say two of them are really friends of mine. The rest of them, I come to find out, they were just using me as the spot to hang out. They were all just trying to have somewhere to go and sit there all day and do what they do.

You know, what really drew the line for me is, like I said, when I would be in public and people would say, yeah, you live in that dope house on the corner. And I'm like - man, I done moved around here. And they're telling me - man, this used to be the spot, woo-woo. And these dudes are coming home from doing two and three years. So they're coming back to get this going again.

QUARLES: All the drug dealers sat in that yard selling pills, crack, weed. And we had a serious problem with that.

A. ROY: (Laughter) That's what I walked into. Straight up, I walked right in the middle of all that.

DEMBY: So when did Anthony involve the cops? When did they start to let the cops know that this was an ongoing concern for them?

DEGREGORY: Well, his mom had been calling them for three years by then. She had a specific sergeant on her speed dial in her phone - was how often she'd called them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PATRICIA ROY: They told me to go and get a no trespassing sign to put on the property. I went downtown to see about getting the sign put up. And they told me because it wasn't a commercial business, they couldn't do it. The only thing that I could do was put up - you know, go to the Home Depot and buy a sign that says, no trespassing. But that wasn't going to do any good. What - would defeat the whole purpose.

DEGREGORY: You know, we pulled the cop logs from that corner. And there were just dozens and dozens of calls, not necessarily from even just Anthony but lots of - you know, lots of activity on that corner right there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

QUARLES: We went to them a lot. His mother went to them.

P. ROY: I would go over there and complain to them about the guys hanging around. They weren't doing anything.

QUARLES: I went to them. He went to them.

A. ROY: How the fuck y'all police don't know these niggas (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #3: We do.

A. ROY: I know them.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #3: We do.

A. ROY: I got to fight these niggas every day...

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #3: But you know what happens every time we drive through.

A. ROY: ...About my yard. This is my yard.

QUARLES: Never nothing done.

DEGREGORY: Anthony was kind of in a weird position because he had kind of told the cops like, yeah. If there's people out there slinging drugs in my yard, come arrest them. Come into my yard. It's fine.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: I used to tell them all the time. I'd say, if you see somebody doing something and they run in my yard to duck you, come up in my yard and approach them. You got my permission. But they didn't have my back. They left me. Like, they'd just sit back and wait for me to get into it with somebody and then come - always late.

DEMBY: Here's Daniel Slaughter, the Clearwater police chief, talking to Lane.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DANIEL SLAUGHTER: The criminal justice system's very complex and very large. And there's resource constraints beyond just the police department. And then constitutionality issues and the ability to prosecute a case is far different at the police officer level than it is in the criminal court level. We operate on what's called probable cause where a court has to work on a higher standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

So naturally, there's going to be people that we arrest that don't actually have enough evidence or enough material to get to that higher burden of proof. But it doesn't mean you don't ever - you know, you never stop trying.

DEGREGORY: Anthony was kind of in a weird position because if he talked to the cops when they were near the house or at the substation, all of his neighbors would give him a hard time, like, what? Are you narcing (ph) us out? So he...

MERAJI: Lane says that if this was her problem on her property, she's convinced the police would have responded very differently because she's a white woman living in a mostly white neighborhood.

DEGREGORY: If we'd called the cops about somebody loitering in our backyard, they would have been over there and hauled them away. You know what I mean? It wouldn't have been a - such a cat and mouse game.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: If the police came around in my yard, people would come over there just to make sure I don't say nothing.

MERAJI: And so he's doing this dance where he's like, OK. I don't want to make these guys mad in the neighborhood because the police might not come.

DEGREGORY: And if the police come, they're going to get mad anyway - or madder because they're going to think he narced (ph) them out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: I looked out for everyone. I had no choice. I already know better than to try to cut up - you cut up in the neighborhood and nobody knows you and you're not from around there, You won't last a week.

MERAJI: Yeah. What do you do in a situation like that?

DEGREGORY: Exactly. Well - and I'm not trying to over-emphasize this, but it's Florida. And whether or not you have air conditioning makes a big difference. And so you don't drive through white neighborhoods or upper-middle class of any race neighborhoods and see people hanging out outside in the summer. People are in the air conditioning, you know? You drive through these neighborhoods, and everybody's outside trying to cool off. So it's also, where are people's bodies at night?

MERAJI: One of the things that I was thinking of was that if I was trying to work with the police and this kept happening over and over again, that I would just stop dealing with them and feel like, forget it, you know? I wash my hands of this. I'm going to - I don't know - either move or figure it out on my own. Is this something Anthony did or did he continue to work with the police?

DEGREGORY: Well, he thought about moving. But they didn't have the money to move. And remember; it wasn't his house. It was his mom's house. So she would have had to sell the house for him to move somewhere else. But, really, if you want to afford a house, that was one of the only places that he could afford to live. So he did think about that.

But the other thing they did was kind of just hole up inside, you know? Like, you're exactly right. Like, let it go on. Try not to deal with them. They talked about feeling like they were prisoners in their own house where they couldn't even go out in the backyard and enjoy it or Irene said - you know, one time, she was having family over. And she tried to tell all those people, you got to clear out this weekend. I got family coming over - just asking for her one, little weekend of her backyard. And they wouldn't do it.

MERAJI: Wow.

DEGREGORY: Her daughter was a real beautiful 20-something-year-old. And she was scared to death to go out the backyard because the guys kept groping her.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

QUARLES: She used to hate to go out the house because of the guy's homie (ph). And every time she'd come out the house, he used to grab her and try to hug on her and pull her. They could be sitting outside on the deck, my two daughters. He would come and flop between them two. She used to hate to go out the house. She used to hide. She had to hide to keep him from putting his hands on her.

DEGREGORY: Even just existing in her own home got difficult.

DEMBY: Mostly because of that guy Tony, aka Big Tony, aka Fat Tony.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: He's telling my wife, get out the way. I'm coming back. There wasn't nothing you could tell me at that point. I wasn't letting this dude get away because I said he been tormenting me for too long. What could I do? I couldn't move. What would you do if you was in my situation?

MERAJI: Stay with us.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MERAJI: Shereen.

DEMBY: Gene.

MERAJI: CODE SWITCH. And we're back in studio with Lane DeGregory of the Tampa Bay Times. So Anthony Roy and his wife Irene are basically holed up in their house on the corner. And it's mainly because of this one person making their life hell - Fat Tony.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEMBY: Can you tell us about who Fat Tony was?

DEGREGORY: Yeah. Fat Tony - his real name was Bernard Antonio Richards. And everybody in the neighborhood called him Fat Tony or Big Tony. And he was 31 years old. He was a really big guy, as you can imagine. He played high school football. He was just, apparently, a really violent and aggressive football player. He had beaten up his mom a couple times where she called the cops on him.

MERAJI: Wow.

DEMBY: He beat up his mom.

DEGREGORY: He beat up his mom, and she was scared of him. You could tell. But she loved him because he was her son.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARGIE MILLS: He was a decent boy. But he also could have an attitude and get mad or whatever. But he was a good boy.

DEGREGORY: He moved out at, like, 16. He moved in with a girlfriend. And his girlfriend said he was real good with her kids. She was a bit older than him. Even at 16, 17, he helped with her kids, said he would do anything for anybody who asked him to. But the neighborhood kind of knew him as a bully. The neighborhood knew him as this guy who was, like, ubiquitous and never really seemed to have a place to go. So he was always out in the streets or at the convenience mart.

MERAJI: When did Anthony meet him?

DEGREGORY: So Big Tony was in jail when Anthony first moved there. And that kind of goes back to the first five or six months were blissful (laughter). And then when he got out of jail, he came right back to the yard. And that's when he met Anthony. Anthony had already been living there for a few months when he got out of jail. And then all of a sudden, he was kind of like, hey. This is my corner.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: This man had so much traffic coming. Even when he's not even around, these people were coming up in my yard, walking up in my house, knocking on my door looking for him. And I'm like, he don't live here.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MERAJI: Lane says the relationship between Anthony and Fat Tony - I know, it's a lot of Tonys. Stay with me. That relationship was testy from the get-go - nothing crazy, no big fights, just a lot of macho, chest-bumping behavior.

DEGREGORY: And as the years went by, it seemed like Fat Tony was goading Anthony more and more. And Anthony was getting more and more sick of having to put up with this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: He ain't have nowhere to stay, so he's hanging in the street all night selling dope. He's in my yard, sleeping under my tent - under my gazebo. I used to wake up, look in my yard. He's sitting in my yard slinging dope. I get up, come outside asking, you got anywhere you want to go? He was telling me his girl - a girl he knows or whatever. I take him. You know what I'm saying? I would take this dude anywhere to get him from out my yard. And he - I guess he just refused to let go of that spot.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DEGREGORY: He's 20 years younger than Anthony. So I think Anthony also felt very disrespected by this kind of younger, punkier guy who kept getting in his face and challenging him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: The more I bent and the more I let him get his way and he got the upper hand - I'm thinking that it would've did some good. It didn't. He took my kindness and me bucking - me breaking down as weaker. And he just got tougher with it. And I was like, there's just no winning with this dude.

DEGREGORY: And Fat Tony - two different times - came over and showed Anthony his gun.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: He pulled a gun on me twice, come up in my face showing me a gun. Look at this gun right here I just bought. Now, why would you come up and tell me that? He bought two guns that I know of. And both times, he showed them to me. Like, look. Check this gun out I got right here - just like he always used to make comments about my house, not having nowhere to hide if I was to get into it with some people out there in the neighborhood. And I'm not no fool. I'm not going to just sit back. You start talking about how I don't have no cover in my house, what's that mean? You're going to shoot my house up.

DEGREGORY: Finally, Anthony tells his wife, you know, we've got to get a gun.

DEMBY: Can we talk about that moment when he decides to get a gun?

DEGREGORY: Yeah. I think he'd been pushing Miss Irene for a while to get a gun, and she was kind of hesitant. She didn't really want a gun in the house. And then there was one afternoon they were all, like, sitting in the living room there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

QUARLES: This dude ran through my house. I mean, really opened my door, ran through the house, closed the door behind him, went out my front door. And the police was right there. You know, the police was chasing him. But he ran through my house and ran out the front door. That's why I bought the gun. I got people running through my house from the police, so it's time to do something. You got to protect yourself. Police ain't going to protect you. You got to protect yourself.

DEGREGORY: At that point in time, I think she was like, OK, dude. Let's get a gun. You're right. We need a gun.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: The way the tone was with me, I knew I wasn't going to be around there much longer without it 'cause, like, they were already shooting in the neighborhood, shooting around the house and then shooting up in the air, all that kind of crap. So I already knew what was coming. People kept telling me, like - man, you better watch out 'cause he be talking about you all the time.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MERAJI: Lane, walk us through July 9, 2016, the day that Big Tony was shot 17 times by Anthony.

DEGREGORY: It was hot (laughter). It was Florida in July in the summer. And it was a Saturday, so everybody was off work. And there were about a dozen guys sitting in Anthony's backyard all day drinking Budweisers and smoking blunts. Anthony stayed inside most of the day. He was playing Battlefield on his Xbox. And then the guys kept saying - oh, dude, come on out; have a beer with us. Come on out; have a beer with us.

So he finally gave in about dusk, and he went out and sat with them. And they were, you know, in this little makeshift bar in his backyard. An old van pulls up in the alley beside the house, and the white woman gets out and starts walking toward them. And you know, she's there asking for drugs.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: And so I met her right at the curb. I said, so who are you here to see? She wouldn't say who'd she see. I said, look here; this is my house. I said, ain't no dope over here. And you can take your - I'm cussing her out. Right? And she goes - well, what are you - you ain't going to do nothing to me. I'm white. I said, what? I said, what that mean? I said, what that mean? I said, if you step your behind in my yard, that ain't going to help you at all.

DEGREGORY: And he got so mad she wouldn't leave. And all the other guys were just sitting there watching this go down, not helping him or not trying to get rid of her. And so he went in and got his gun, and he sort of chases her down the street and fires two shots into the street, not shooting at her but shooting, you know, to let her know - get the hell out of here. And remember: it's hot as bejesus. They've been drinking and smoking all day long. So after he chased her away, all the guys on the porch, they're laughing at him at this point in time. They're laughing at him chasing this white woman off of his property. So his ire really gets up then. And he goes inside, and he gets these baseball bats.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: So I told everybody in my yard. And I said, look here, man. It's about to - some stuff about to jump off in the yard. I said, all y'all, you ain't involved in it. Y'all might want to roll out and get out the yard. And that's when he snapped on me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEGREGORY: Big Tony is the only one who stands up and is like - are you talking to me? I'm feeling like you're saying something to me here - and really starts, like, chest bumping him again.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: Cussing me out, all this - I said, look, man. I ain't say nothing. I ain't say your name. He said, no, but I'm listening to what you saying. You making me feel some type of way. I said look, man, I don't give a shit, you trash ass nigga. He said, you go get your gun. I got my gun.

MERAJI: Did Big Tony have a gun?

DEGREGORY: We don't know. They never found a gun.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: But when he said that, I dropped the bat. I said, oh, shoot. I got in the house. I got my gun. As I'm going in the house, that's when he started yelling - yo, yo, hey, Miss Irene, you better get out that house. I said, I know he ain't talking to you like that. I go in the house. So I grab my gun. My wife come in then. She's like, what you doing? What you doing? She said, no, don't go out there. Don't go out there. I said, are you listening to what he's saying? He's saying he's going to come back and shoot the house up.

I grabbed my clip. I went outside. He's still saying it. Now he's on the side of my house. Now, once he see me and I've got my gun in my hand, he's walking away. He starts walking out my yard and starts walking across the street. But he's still throwing the death threats, saying, yo, Miss Irene. And now he picks up and he starts calling at somebody on the phone. And that's when he told me straight up - he said, man, you going to pull that shit, you better use it.

DEGREGORY: He gets up out of his house, and he follows Big Tony across the street into the parking lot of the convenience mart. And the whole time, Big Tony's still goading him, like - you got it, man, you better use it; you're going to pull it on me, you better use it. And he did. Anthony just couldn't take the taunting anymore.

(SOUNDBITE OF 911 CALL)

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR #2: Is he passed out...

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #2: Bop, bop, bop, bop, bop.

DEGREGORY: There were seven or eight 911 calls right away from the scene. Witnesses were right there.

(SOUNDBITE OF 911 CALL MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR #3: Clearwater police - go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #2: There was just a shooting at the Belair stores.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR #3: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: And just that quick (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR #3: At the Stop -N- Shop?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #2: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR #3: OK. Did you see the shots or just hear it?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #2: My heart is pounding.

I seen the gun out. I seen the gun out.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #3: And I heard, like, maybe six gunshots.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #4: It sounded like a automatic. They at least shot it off, like, 12 times.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #5: It was probably the whole entire clip. And then people started screaming up at the store.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #3: And then people running.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER #2: Ooh, God.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: Once I squeezed the trigger, I don't even remember no 17 shots.

DEGREGORY: So he ended up firing the gun until it stopped firing, shot Big Tony - both sides of his body 'cause Big Tony turned around at one point. So he was shot front of his shoulders, his chest, his back, his butt, his legs, his thighs, everywhere - 17 bullets. And then, when he ran out of bullets, Anthony was so enraged still that he started kicking him, kicking him in the head on the ground.

MERAJI: Whoa.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: When that gun locked, I looked at him. And I said, I can't believe it. I threw my whole life away on this dude. I came back over to the house. And then my old lady was in the street hiding behind a tree. She said, you going to shoot me, too? And that's what broke me. I snapped out of that, handed my wife the gun. And I just said, I can't believe that this dude pushed me to do this, man. I tried everything not to get there. Two years, this dude tormented me. And I ate all of that. But like anybody, when he threatened my wife, I snapped. I wasn't willing to take the chance on her life.

MERAJI: In that moment, he realizes, OK. The rest of my life is gone. We know he took a plea deal. Where is he now?

DEGREGORY: So the plea deal he took was 20 years plus time served, so he could get out in 15 at best. He was in the Pinellas County Jail for over a year waiting for this all to be figured out. And then since then, they've taken him to a facility - to a prison about a three-hour drive north of Clearwater. And he's at a work camp in the prison. He got a lot of tattoos in jail. He looked like a different person from the first time we interviewed him till the second. He'd gotten sleeves and jailhouse tattoos all up him, and he had a teardrop tattoo under his eye.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: Where I come from, if you got a teardrop on your eye, that means you went to prison for killing somebody, and you suffer and you cry every day that you're there. And that's exactly what I've been doing. Every day in here is just - it's just agony.

DEGREGORY: And he's been doing a lot of drawing. He's actually a really, really good artist. And he's been drawing all these pictures of Miss Irene. She moved out of that house. And her new trailer where she lives is just covered with portraits of the Obamas and Beyonce and Rihanna and all these family members. And he just draws from memory all these beautiful pencil sketches - angels, lots of angels.

DEMBY: What's up with the house now?

DEGREGORY: Anthony's mom had to sell the house to pay the lawyer. So it took forever to sell the house. Nobody wanted to live there. They kept dropping the price, dropping the price. But she needed the money from the home that she had as her investment for retirement to defend her son.

MERAJI: And Irene, how is she doing?

DEGREGORY: Irene was pretty broken by this whole thing. I mean - OK. We didn't say this, but Irene is 10 years older than Mr. Roy. So she was 61 and he was 51, but he very, very much took care of her. And she doesn't drive. She's let him kind of take care of all of the finances and the living plans and everything. She was very, very dependent on him. So it seemed real difficult for her to kind of move on and now be the matriarch with her daughter and her grandson there. Anthony's mom helped Miss Irene and her daughter and grandson move into a mobile home not too far away but in a nice mobile home park with mostly older people. And it's a mobile home instead of a house, but the neighborhood she feels a lot more safe in. From the first time we saw her right after he had been arrested until the time we saw her right after his sentencing, she'd lost 50 pounds. And she couldn't have weighed...

DEMBY: Wow.

DEGREGORY: ...110 pounds to begin with. I mean, she was so emaciated and tired-looking. It was heartbreaking. She went to visit him, like, four times a week when he was still in jail down here. But now he's so far away, and she can't drive. It's a lot harder.

MERAJI: Does she think she's still going to be alive when he is able to get out? Is this something that she ever talks about?

DEGREGORY: They both talked about that. I don't think either one of them thinks that he's going to get out in time to be with her.

DEMBY: Can you tell us about Fat Tony's family?

DEGREGORY: We only met Fat Tony's mom, and she was incredibly weepy. She had been calling the cops month after month to find out what was going on with this case because she really felt like Mr. Roy should just have to rot in jail for the rest of his life. And she was very, very broken up by his death.

And we actually went with her almost a year afterwards - she drives one of those little jazzy scooters. And she lived in the projects a mile or so away from where Mr. Roy's house was. And so one afternoon, we went with her, and she drove her jazzy scooter all the way down to the funeral home near the convenience mart to pick up Big Tony's ashes in this big urn and - holding it in her lap. And she just couldn't even catch her breath. She was crying so hard.

MERAJI: Oh.

DEMBY: So Fat Tony is dead. Anthony is in prison. Anthony's mom sold that house. And those dudes are still posted up in the backyard.

DEGREGORY: That's correct.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A. ROY: You would have thought after all of that they would've cracked down on them dudes. They're still there. My next-door neighbor that was living next door, they done ran them out. They don't live there no more. They done moved out already. They're still right there on that same block, so all of this was for nothing. That's crazy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MERAJI: That's our show. Follow us on Twitter. We're at @nprcodeswitch, and we want to hear from you. Email us at codeswitch@npr.org. Subscribe to the podcast wherever you get your podcasts. And leave us a review on iTunes. That's how people find us.

DEMBY: This episode was produced by Maria Paz Gutierrez.

MERAJI: And it was edited by Sami Yenigun. Special thanks to Cherie Diez who co-reported this piece and recorded all the sound. You can read the original story and see Cherie's photographs and video at the Tampa Bay Times website. Just search for house on the corner.

DEMBY: And as always, a shout-out to the rest of the CODE SWITCH fam - Leah Donnella, Adrian Florido, Walter Ray Watson, Kat Chow, Karen Grigsby Bates. Our Kroc Fellow is Mayowa Aina. And our intern is Andrea Henderson. I'm Gene Demby.

MERAJI: And I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji.

DEMBY: Be easy.

MERAJI: Peace.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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