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    Man killed as he enters wrong home

    A Clearwater homeowner shoots a man who barges into his townhouse. The slain man turns out to be a neighbor.

    By CHRIS TISCH and MEGAN SCOTT
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 3, 2003


    CLEARWATER -- In a neighborhood where many of the townhouses look alike, Jeffrey S. McNeil somehow ended up in the wrong one early Sunday morning.

    Pinellas sheriff's officials say McNeil, 32, banged on the front door of his neighbor's townhouse, possibly thinking it was his home. After the homeowner, John E. Arnold, opened the door, McNeil barged in and made a threatening move, Arnold told detectives.

    Arnold, who had loaded his pistol when he heard the banging on the door, raised the gun and fired twice, hitting McNeil once below the right eye.

    Arnold called 911. Rescuers arrived and pronounced McNeil dead in Arnold's home at 2583 Estancia Blvd. McNeil lived with his parents at 2587 Estancia Blvd., two doors down.

    Detectives are trying to figure out how McNeil wound up at Arnold's door. They were investigating whether alcohol might have played a part because they found a tapped keg in his truck, which was parked in Arnold's driveway.

    "Detectives say McNeil ... probably came home to the wrong address (and) became agitated when he could not get into what he thought was his own home," sheriff's spokeswoman Marianna Pasha said.

    McNeil's father, Harry, said his son was helping a friend build a bar Saturday night.

    "I know he wasn't intoxicated," Harry McNeil said. "He's a health nut. He didn't smoke, drink, nothing like that.

    "He parked in the wrong driveway. I've done it myself."

    Harry McNeil said his son attended high school in Countryside and Tarpon Springs, then college in Connecticut. He played soccer and taught the game to youngsters, his father said.

    "He was a good person," he said.

    Although McNeil's death remains under investigation, Pasha said initial indications are that no charges will be filed.

    "Preliminarily, it appears to be a self-defense incident," she said.

    Arnold declined to comment Sunday.

    Sheriff's officials said Arnold was sleeping about 2 a.m. Sunday when he heard a commotion outside his home.

    His teenage daughter and a friend of hers who was staying over also were awakened.

    Arnold told detectives someone was banging on his garage and his front door and yelling obscenities, Pasha said. So he fetched his pistol, loaded it and headed downstairs, she said.

    Although the front door has a peephole and Arnold didn't recognize McNeil, he opened the door. McNeil then forced his way inside, Pasha said.

    Arnold asked McNeil several times what he wanted. Arnold later told investigators that the intruder was mumbling and acting strangely, Pasha said.

    Arnold told detectives that McNeil came at him.

    "The homeowner (Arnold) said he felt threatened and was concerned for his safety," Pasha said. "He became afraid, so he shot him."

    The first shot missed, zinging out the front door. The second shot hit McNeil.

    Neighbors had mixed feelings about the incident. Some thought Arnold should have called police first; others felt McNeil had to have been impaired.

    All were surprised. Neighbors said no one on the street has caused any problems in the past.

    "This is a very quiet place," said Sam Citro, who sometimes talked with McNeil about their Harley-Davidson motorcycles. "People leave their doors open."

    Neighbor Louise Alstatter said: "I feel sorry for both guys. The guy who shot him, he will live with it. The one who is dead is dead. I feel sorry for both families."

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