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Gun tops list of items sold at police auction

By ALEX LEARY

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 13, 2001


CRYSTAL RIVER -- Dave Phillips knows how trusty a handgun can be. He has the scars to prove it.

In late September, a man returned to Phillips' pawnshop to pick up a .357-caliber Magnum he had purchased a few days earlier.

The man, 25-year-old Kevin Fitzsimmons, walked in with a samurai-style sword and stabbed Phillips in the midsection.

Phillips retreated to a rear room of the shop, grabbed a gun of his own and shot Fitzsimmons in the head. Fitzsimmons died a day later.

"If it weren't for a handgun, I'd be dead," said Phillips, who turned 50 earlier this month.

So when the Crystal River Police Department asked people to donate items for a benefit auction, held Sunday evening, he offered some jewelry and a semiautomatic pistol.

"I have a special bond with the Crystal River Police Department," Phillips said. "I was a hurt puppy when they showed up, and they took care of me."

The 9mm Beretta -- Phillips dubbed it the "choice of champions worldwide" -- was the top item at the auction, selling for $700.

"I figured other people should have the same opportunity I had to defend their lives," Phillips said.

Asked if the gun was the same one he had used, Phillips was stunned.

"Are you kidding? The gun I used is in my pocket as we speak. It's my favorite. I'll probably be buried with it. When a person uses a firearm to save their life, it becomes a very dear possession."

The person who bid on the gun will have to wait three days before picking it up, as is required under state law.

The auction and police ball raised $7,500 for the department's mounted horse patrol. The second highest selling item was a painting by Crystal River artist Pavla Bratska-Reed. It went for $650.

Other items included autographed Mike Hampton baseball cards, an antique clock and a day at a spa.

Sgt. Kat Klyap, who rides the horses with Cpl. Sue Webb, said $1,500 will be used to pay off a horse trailer and the rest will be stored as a "nest egg." Most expenses are covered by donations.

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