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    Man on scooter injured in possible drive-by shooting

    As he rode along West Bay Drive, the 78-year-old man was struck in the chest by something.

    By CHRIS TISCH

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 7, 2001


    BELLEAIR -- A 78-year-old man riding a motorized scooter was injured in what authorities say may have been a drive-by shooting Wednesday night on West Bay Drive.

    The man was riding his scooter in front of the First Union Bank near Indian Rocks Road about 7 p.m. when he was hit by a bullet, a pellet or another projectile.

    The man was taken by helicopter to Bayfront Medical Center, but Pinellas sheriff's deputies say he suffered only a laceration to his upper-left chest.

    "He's fine, basically," said Lt. Tim Szumigala. Officials did not identify the Belleair Bluffs resident Wednesday night because his family, including his wife, had not been notified of the incident.

    Detectives summoned to the scene treated the case like a shooting, but sheriff's officials said they don't know what hit the man. It's possible he was hit by a stone kicked up by a car, Szumigala said.

    "We don't know what hit him. It may not even be a gunshot wound," he said. "He was hit with something."

    Deputies found no witnesses to the incident.

    The man told responding deputies that he saw a white compact car heading east on West Bay right after he was hit.

    "And that's all he could say," Szumigala said.

    Forensic deputies used a metal detector to scour the bank lawn for a bullet or shell casing, but did not find one. Deputies taped off the bank with crime scene tape and blocked two westbound lanes of West Bay Drive.

    After the shooting, the man steered his scooter to the Albertson's grocery store next door to call 911. He told employees that he thought he had been shot, sheriff's officials said.

    Emergency workers treated the man's injury. He stayed conscious and was talking, said Largo Deputy Fire Chief Tom Tarulli.

    Anyone with information about the shooting was asked to call the sheriff's office at 582-6200.

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