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    Struggle over gun leads to shooting

    The injured man, described as easygoing and responsible, had intervened in an argument.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 25, 2001

    CLEARWATER -- Leonard Peterson was in a battle. He was desperately trying to wrestle away a gun from a 17-year-old who had been arguing with his nephew.

    As the men battled, they fell through an open door. When Peterson tried to get to his feet, Christian V. Pou -- already facing trial on attempted murder charges -- began firing, authorities say. Peterson was hit and lay bleeding.

    Pou fled.

    Officers arrested him about 10:15 p.m. Wednesday, roughly three hours after the shooting, at his mother's home at 308 Gunn Ave. He was charged with attempted second-degree murder, said Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor. Peterson was flown to Bayfront Medical Center, where he was listed in serious condition Thursday, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

    Friends and co-workers expressed disbelief over how Peterson, a family man who was quick to avoid confrontation, could end up fighting for his life.

    The shooting happened a floor below Peterson's home at the Canterbury Oaks apartment complex, 2025 Rogers St. Pou had been arguing with Peterson's nephew about a dog.

    Peterson stepped in, taking his nephew by the arm and escorting him to his second-floor apartment, Shelor said. Not long after, Peterson and his nephew -- who police would not identify -- headed down the building's stairwell on their way to the parking lot.

    When they got to the bottom of the steps, Pou was waiting, officials said. Peterson saw the gun and, thinking Pou planned to use it, reached for the weapon, Shelor said. The men struggled and fell through the front door of apartment 119. Then the gun was fired several times, Shelor said.

    Pou was being held Thursday at the Pinellas County Juvenile Detention Center, Shelor said. This wasn't his first brush with authorities.

    In October, Pinellas sheriff's deputies charged Pou with attempted murder after he and another person picked out a car, followed it around Clearwater and then fired several shots into the car, said sheriff's Sgt. Greg Tita. No one was injured.

    Peterson worked at the Pavilion Inn's restaurant in Clearwater Beach. During his two years there, his easygoing style and dedication to service made him a hit with customers, said Ken Hamilton, whose family owns the restaurant. He is married and has two daughters, ages 7 and 11, a restaurant worker said.

    "Lenny would do anything that needed to be done," Hamilton said. "He's a very, very dedicated hard worker.

    "He's a very dedicated husband and father," he said. "His purpose was to take care of his family."

    Cindy Phillips, the restaurant's general manager, often took Peterson home after work. She said his daughters adore him and recalled how they wait for him to arrive so they can run up and hug him.

    Tina Barber has lived next to the Petersons for a little more than a year. She also described Peterson as easygoing, a man who avoided conflict.

    The idea of him being shot in a violent confrontation is hard to believe, she said. "It really did surprise me," Barber.

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