A 39-year-old Lakeland man Tuesday joined the growing epidemic of accidental shooting victims in Florida, according to police in Bartow.
Police said Amel Villarreal Jr. was waiting to pick a family member up from Summerlin Academy around 4:10 p.m., after school hours. As he sat in a mini-van in the school’s visitor lot, police said, he took a gun from his waistband and attempted to stow it in the van's center console.
Before the 9mm semi-automatic pistol could be secured, however, police said Villarreal shot himself in the leg.
Police said Villarreal holds a valid Florida concealed carry permit.
In the last month, nearly half a dozen people in the Tampa Bay area alone have been involved in accidental shootings. Some have resulted in injury or death and some have taken place on school campuses. Recently, a Pasco deputy accidentally discharged his gun in a school cafeteria.
Villarreal’s injury increases Florida’s standing as an outlier in the U.S. as the number of people injured in accidental shootings remains flat across the country, but has risen dramatically in the Sunshine State.
According to a recent Tampa Bay Times report, federal data shows a flat rate for injuries in accidental shootings nationwide. But in Florida, the number of people injured in accidental shootings increased 82 percent between 2007 and 2017.
Police said Villarreal’s injuries were not life threatening. He was transported to a hospital in stable condition.
No students were involved in the incident, but police said Villarreal was charges with possession of a firearm on a school campus, a felony.
Contact Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected] Follow @danuscripts.