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Sheriff's deputy struck by BB pellet

Authorities say the incident could be connected with efforts to curb gang activity.

By EMILY NIPPS
Published March 1, 2006


TAMPA - One week after a gang-related shooting that left two dead in the Town 'N Country area, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy was shot by a BB gun while tending to a traffic violation on Waters Avenue.

Authorities suspect it was another gang-related incident, possibly in retaliation over an increase in the presence of sheriff's deputies in the neighborhood.

"We believe it was some type of message that they don't appreciate our efforts to curb the gang activity in that area," Maj. Ron Spiller said. "Our message to them is that this type of activity will not be tolerated and we intend to continue fighting gang-related crimes."

On Monday around 8:20 p.m., Deputy Gus Garcia had just pulled over a car in the westbound lanes of Waters Avenue, just west of Northbridge Boulevard, when he heard a whistling noise to his right. As he turned his head toward the direction of the whistle, he felt a BB pellet hit his chin, then heard it ricochet off the car he had stopped. Authorities do not suspect the car's driver was involved in the shooting.

Garcia, who was not seriously injured, said the shot came from the south side of Waters, near a row of houses and fences. He called for backup, but deputies were not able to locate the shooter, who had fled in the dark.

"At first I was shocked that someone just shot at me," Garcia said. "Then I realized they just shot at me while I was in uniform. You don't expect something like that to happen during a routine traffic stop."

On Feb. 20, shots were fired during a suspected gang-related standoff and a 16-year-old boy and 20-year-old man were killed. Two men, ages 18 and 19, have admitted firing the shots, but said they were a "warning" and not intended to harm anyone. Authorities have not yet charged or identified the men.

Anyone with information was asked to call the sheriff's District 3 office at (813) 247-0330 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-8477.

Emily Nipps can be reached at 813 269-5313 or nipps@sptimes.com

[Last modified March 1, 2006, 00:56:14]


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