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    Tampa Bay briefs

    By Times staff reports

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001

    Bullet still lodged in deputy's body

    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.

    Body found floating in bay

    ST. PETERSBURG -- The body of a St. Petersburg man thought to have jumped from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge was found Sunday morning in Tampa Bay, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.

    The man's identity has not been released, pending notification of his family. A motorist saw the man jumping from the Skyway about 11:30 p.m. Saturday and called authorities.

    The man's car was found at the top of the bridge. The body was found about 9:45 a.m. Sunday, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Dave Cameron.

    Car crash sends man into hospital with head injury

    ST. PETERSBURG -- A 22-year-old suffered a serious head injury early Sunday after the Ford Mustang he was riding in crashed into a tree.

    Michael J. Copas of 310 61st St. N in St. Petersburg was in critical condition at Bayfront Medical Center on Sunday night. The Mustang, heading west, struck the curb at the 4300 block of 15th Avenue S at 1:25 a.m. and crashed into a tree about a block away, according to St. Petersburg police.

    Torrey G. Gilbert, 21, of 4561 23rd Ave. S, who also was in the Mustang, was treated for minor injuries. It wasn't clear which man was driving.

    The investigation was continuing late Sunday.

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