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Bullet still lodged in deputy's body

Shot in the groin during a McDonald's robbery, the officer remains stable.

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001

TAMPA -- A Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy remained in stable condition at St. Joseph's Hospital on Sunday, two days after he was wounded in a shootout with a robbery suspect.

Charles Freeman, 41, an off-duty deputy hired as a security officer, was shot in the groin during the robbery attempt late Friday at the McDonald's on Dale Mabry Highway near Spruce Street.

The bullet is still lodged in the groin area, and Freeman will undergo further tests this week, said Col. David Gee of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

Freeman was working security when four armed teenagers entered the restaurant wearing ski masks. Freeman shot and killed Jason Underwood, 18, one of the suspects, during a gun battle inside.

Deputies said Underwood had tried to fire his 9mm handgun into the ceiling, but misfired. He struck an employee on the head with the gun, then he pulled the slide on the gun to load a round from the clip. Freeman ordered him to stop. At that point, someone fired and the shootout followed. Freeman fired five shots, hitting Underwood in the torso.

Christopher Irvin, Benjamin Graddy and Edwin Beckman, all 16, were taken to the juvenile detention center. They were held on charges of attempted armed robbery and murder for taking part in the felony that resulted in death. They could face further charges for three similar robberies being investigated by Tampa police.

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