TAMPA, Fla. — Richard Cantu smiled as he left the courtroom of the Michael Keetley trial Friday. But he wasn’t smiling because he was happy. Cantu had waited almost ten years to find closure after being shot in the head on Thanksgiving day in 2010 and now he was going to have to wait even longer.
He was smiling because it was the only reaction he could muster in a moment of sadness, frustration, disappointment and grief.
Moments earlier, Judge Christopher Sabella had declared a mistrial in the case against Michael Keetley, the man accused of shooting Cantu and five others after the jury had told the judge they were hopelessly deadlocked.
Sergio Gultron and Juan Gultron, Cantu’s cousins, were killed in the shooting. Their family members were visibly upset, some of them cried as they exited the courtroom.
I had met Cantu a few weeks earlier at his home in Ruskin, Florida. He walks with a visible limp and has a limited range of motion in his right hand – injuries he has lived with ever since the day he was shot. He doesn’t like to talk on-camera, but he was friendly and open as I asked him how he was feeling.
Cantu’s brother Frankie spoke to me on Richard’s behalf that day.
“It’s hard to move on when you’ve got an ongoing trial for ten years,” he told me. “It just brings back the memories from ten years ago, we’re trying to erase – but you know you can never erase those memories. Ever. Those are scarred.”
“I see it every day, and it hurts because I see my brother, who used to be lively, who used to be out and about all the time, doing things, whatever he wanted to do and now he’s housebound most of the time because he can’t drive. He can’t do things he used to, so I see it every day,” he added.
Two weeks later, I was sitting right in front of Richard in the courtroom. After the jury was dismissed, I shook his hand and told him to hang in there.
With the mistrial, prosecutors would have the opportunity to try the case all over again, meaning Cantu and his family would have to wait even longer for the closure they have been hoping for.
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