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A month later, Clearwater shooting victim out of hospital

CLEARWATER — Exactly one month after Alexander Blaine Epstein shot three men at a going away party, the sole survivor was released from the hospital Tuesday.

Dennis Miyawa had been at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg since March 20, the day Epstein shot him three times.

He had a tough recovery. Two days after the shooting, Miyawa appeared to be on the mend, thanking his friends and family in a video posted on YouTube. But a few days after that, his fever spiked to 104, and he was fighting for his life. It took another week or so for his fever to break and for him to start to feel better, his aunt, Janet Dowell, said.

Miwaya, 20, has a couple of lingering health issues, but he's up and walking and likely won't need physical therapy.

"They think he really will make a 100 percent recovery," said Dowell, 48.

Miwaya's release came four days after Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe ruled that undercover Pinellas County sheriff's detectives who killed Epstein were justified.

A five-page report traces the 19-year-old's last hours, from a trip to a local gun store to the moment he died.

According to the report, Epstein was obsessed with guns. After the murders, he offered an acquaintance $500 to borrow his wife's gun. He also asked a family friend to take him to two gun shops so he could purchase one. They went to at least one, Deer Hunter Guns on Gulf-toBay Boulevard, but the report does not indicate if any purchases were made.

At least two individuals urged Epstein to turn himself in to police. He told his father that he was "not going out like that." At 5-feet-7 and 120 pounds, he said he was too little to make it in prison and did not want to be subject to sexual assault.

The father feared police would shoot his son and another family friend shared that concern with Epstein.

Epstein told the friend that it was the way law enforcement officials were going to have to take him.

Authorities with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Marshal's Office set up surveillance outside a Clearwater Beach home where Epstein stayed. Epstein arrived at the Poinsettia Avenue home about 4 p.m. March 20 with two of his father's friends, then exited the residence 15 minutes later and approached an undercover detective's vehicle.

"Police," the detective yelled several times. "Show me your hands."

Epstein grabbed a gun from his waist and pointed it toward the detective, who shot Epstein four times.

On the ground but conscious, Epstein pointed the gun in the direction of the detective and other personnel and refused to obey repeated commands to drop his weapon. The detective and a corporal shot Epstein three more times; he died at the scene.

They "had reason to believe that Alexander Epstein, in his use of the firearm, posed a threat of death or serious physical harm to them and others present in the area," McCabe wrote in an April 16 letter to Sheriff Jim Coats. "The shooting was justifiable homicide."

A month later, Clearwater shooting victim out of hospital 04/20/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 20, 2010 7:59pm]
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