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Teenager says stabbing was self-defense

Police are still trying to figure out what prompted a fight that left a Largo High student hospitalized.


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 20, 2002

Police are still trying to figure out what prompted a fight that left a Largo High student hospitalized.

LARGO -- Yanel Sarti said he was so concerned about his safety, he carried a cane that hid a 12-inch sword.

When two vehicles pulled up to Sarti and his cousin as they walked home from school Monday afternoon, Sarti held the cane. And when some classmates tumbled out of the vehicles and came toward them, Sarti unsheathed the sword.

"I was protecting myself from getting hurt," Sarti, a 17-year-old Largo High School junior, said Tuesday. "I just wanted to scare them and have them leave me alone."

Sarti didn't touch anyone with the sword. But his 15-year-old cousin, whom Sarti identified as Kane Sveda, did pull out a knife and use it, Sarti said. The 15-year-old stabbed Timothy Bare, 17, several times, police said.

Bare suffered a puncture wound to his lung and possibly to his spleen, his parents said. He was in fair condition Tuesday at Bayfront Medical Center, and his parents said he was in a lot of pain. They felt lucky that he was alive.

"He was covered in blood," said his father, Ronni Bare. "He was pure white. He looked like a ghost. It's a scary feeling when you get a call that your son's been stabbed."

Police and school officials said they were trying to sort out what prompted the altercation. But stories from the students have been vague, said Largo High School principal Barbara Thornton.

"No one's really said why," she said. "There doesn't seem to be an answer at this point. I guess the question is, how did he (Bare) get out of the car and into a fight? And could he have avoided it?"

Bare's parents said their son had heard rumors of a fight occurring after school that day. He went with friends to see what was happening, his mother said, but had no intention of getting involved.

Bare didn't even know the boy who stabbed him, his mother, Jackie Bare, said.

But she said he did get out of one of the vehicles, a truck. Words were exchanged. "The kid got spooked," she said of the 15-year-old.

Bare suffered a wound to his arm and three to his back, Jackie Bare said.

Witnesses said they had seen the truck sitting in the area of Nolan Drive and Jackson Street for about a half-hour Monday afternoon. There also was a Jeep with kids inside. When Sarti and his cousin walked through the area, they tried to keep away from the vehicles. But then the vehicles pulled up, and kids got out and jumped them, witnesses said.

Sarti said Bare was one of the first ones out of the truck. Sarti said Bare struck his cousin in the back of the head. His cousin then swung at Bare with the knife, Sarti said.

Bare's friends got the wounded boy back into the truck and then drove him to a house a few blocks away. By that time, his lips were white, and his breathing was erratic. Paramedics had him flown by helicopter to Bayfront.

Police charged Sarti with a felony count of aggravated assault. He was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center and then released to the custody of his mother. Sarti said his cousin, whom police charged with aggravated battery, also a felony, was still being held at the center Tuesday afternoon.

Sarti said he didn't know the names of the kids who came after him. But he said some kids have been picking on him because he has a unique laugh.

"They don't like how I laugh, and they make fun of that," he said. "They try to say I was talking a whole bunch of crap about them."

Sarti said students have threatened him before. He claimed some have even chased him with crowbars. They also don't like his cousin, a freshman, because of his hairstyle, he said.

"I'm just a person who likes to stay away from everybody," said Sarti. "I never had any other problems except for this year. I don't like getting into fights, but if they come my way, I have to protect myself.

"I do think it was self-defense," he added.

Bare's parents said he is a good young man who attends church and is on the football and wrestling teams. He had hoped to attend college next year on a football scholarship.

"Not until a doctor clears it will we know if he can ever play a sport again," his father said.

Bare was too sedated to answer questions from his hospital bed Tuesday afternoon. But he did tell his parents he wanted a powerful message conveyed:

"Fighting is not the answer," his father said. "Look where Tim's at. Timothy could have lost his life yesterday."

-- Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Chris Tisch can be reached at 445-4156.

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