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    Police: Man was shot with his own gun

    A detective says an intruder may have wrestled the gun away from the 88-year-old.

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published November 28, 2002

    LARGO -- Investigators think an 88-year-old man shot to death in his home Tuesday was killed with his own .38-caliber revolver, which he kept in a bedroom drawer.

    The man suspected in the shooting, 19-year-old Brandon Scott Ware of Largo, will be charged sometime this morning with first-degree murder, said Largo police Detective Joe Coyle.

    Police say Ware followed Vernon and Helen Gilbert home Tuesday after the couple left a nearby Publix. Ware confronted the Gilberts and forced them into their condominium, police said.

    Police said it appears that Mr. Gilbert grabbed the revolver out of a drawer in his bedroom and shot Ware in the face and back.

    In what probably were his final words, Mr. Gilbert called 911. A police dispatcher could hardly hear Mr. Gilbert's faint voice.

    "Is there an emergency?" she asked.

    Gilbert spoke up.

    "Send the police," he said. The dispatcher asked what had happened.

    "I just shot a guy in here robbing us," he said. "911 Washington. Hurry."

    Gilbert hung up. Police arrived in three minutes. When they reached the Gilberts' third-story condo on Washington Avenue, Mr. Gilbert was in the bedroom, dead of a single gunshot wound to the head.

    A bloodied Ware was on the floor in the living room, drifting in and out of consciousness, Coyle said.

    Mrs. Gilbert, 86, who suffers from Alzheimer's, was roaming around outside the unit when police arrived. She suffered minor head injuries during the attack and was taken to Largo Medical Center, where she remained Wednesday.

    Ware was taken by helicopter to Bayfront Medical Center. On Wednesday, his injuries improved and he was listed in fair condition. Coyle said doctors expect that he will be discharged from the hospital in two or three days.

    He is guarded around-the-clock by a police officer.

    Coyle said investigators and forensic technicians were at the crime scene late Wednesday night. He said the work being done there is routine, but necessarily thorough.

    Ware will be charged under the state's felony murder law, in which a suspect can be charged with murder if someone dies during the commission of certain felonies. In this case, the felony would be robbery. More charges could be pending, Coyle said.

    Coyle said he interviewed Ware on Wednesday, but he declined to offer specifics.

    Ware's mother, who lives in Tampa, could not be reached for comment. She was at the hospital Wednesday.

    Ware, who lived only a short distance from the Gilberts' home, had worked for the past month at a Beef 'O' Brady's restaurant in the same shopping complex where the couple shopped for groceries. His last known address is 610 West Bay Drive, No. 4.

    He was arrested in June on charges of sale and possession of cocaine. He pleaded guilty to the charges Sept. 30 and was sentenced to probation and drug court.

    Coyle said the Gilberts' relatives told police that Mr. Gilbert was an avid hunter when he was younger and kept guns in the house. Police found other guns, besides the revolver, Coyle said.

    "Further investigation needs to be done to be 100 percent sure, but right now it appears to be his weapon," Coyle said.

    Police found the drawer in the bedroom had been opened. There also was an empty black holster in the drawer that would have held the revolver, Coyle said.

    Coyle said he thinks one of two things happened after Mr. Gilbert shot Ware: Either Mr. Gilbert put the weapon down while he called 911 and Ware picked it up, or Ware attacked him and wrestled away the gun.

    Police and friends said Mr. Gilbert was frail and had suffered a broken hip and shoulder in falls in the past year. Police said he probably weighed about 90 pounds.

    Coyle said there is no indication that anyone else was involved in the robbery attempt.

    -- Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Chris Tisch can be reached at 445-4156 or . Michael Sandler can be reached at 445-4174 or .

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