An anonymous caller claiming to be a friend of the LA Fitness shooter and speaking on his behalf said Sunday the incident was an unfortunate case of self-defense. The killing left one man dead Monday and neighbors afraid to visit the gym and surrounding businesses days later.
The caller said problems began long before Antonio Royal, 40, was fatally shot in the parking lot at Skillman and Walnut Hill. According to the caller, Antonio’s brother is a member of LA Fitness and was working out at the gym before 11 a.m. Monday morning. While there, he encountered a former acquaintance – the man who ended up shooting Antonio.
The shooter is a “granddad and awesome father” with “a past he’s not proud of,” said the caller. He knew Antonio during their days on the wrong side of the law, and the two had disagreements “back in the day.”
Antonio’s brother clearly wanted to fight, “getting up in the shooter’s face, talking crazy mad and baiting him,” according to the caller and witnesses in the gym. The shooter apologized for whatever had transpired in their past, then retreated to the locker room to allow cooler heads to prevail. After 20-30 minutes, he walked out the front door and around the corner toward his own car, spotting Antonio’s brother leaving at the same time. He could see the man had a gun.
The shooter heard footsteps and saw another man run up, aim a gun and fire at him. He drew his own gun and killed that man. The dead man was later identified by police as 40-year-old Antonio Demond Royal. Witnesses reported hearing the brother cry, “Tonio, don’t die,” as Antonio lay bleeding on the asphalt.
According to the caller, after initially arguing with the shooter, Antonio’s brother had pulled out his cell phone and called Antonio, who was not present in the gym. According to the caller, he asked Antonio to drive to LA Fitness and lie in wait in the parking lot for the purposes of killing the shooter.
“[Antonio] was there to kill the shooter,” the anonymous caller told me. “What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. It was a case of self-defense. The shooter thought he was going to die. He is really messed up over this. He actually moved out of the apartment complex they both lived in so he could stay away from him. To me, the brothers had a conspiracy to commit murder. I believe police will have a hard time getting an indictment.”
“It is possible that this was self-defense,” said Homicide Det. Phillip Wheeler, working the case for Dallas police. “There is evidence at the scene that indicates this is a strong possibility. I just need the shooter to come in and tell me what happened.”
“The deceased came out shooting with the gun turned sideways like he thought that was cool. He just missed,” continued the caller. “The shooter is a man with children and grandbabies. All he does is try to take care of his family. I believe anyone else being shot at would have done the same thing in the same situation.”
Advocate cannot independently confirm all aspects of the caller’s story, although many dovetail with accounts by witnesses inside and outside the gym. Police said none of LA Fitness’ security cameras were in working order on the day of the shooting.
The shooter remains in hiding today, and police are still searching for him. If you have information which can bring the truth to light in the LA Fitness case, please contact Detective Phillip Wheeler at 214-671-3686 or email@example.com.