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AWOL soldiers part of investigation into Zephyrhills shootings

ZEPHYRHILLS — Pasco County deputies are investigating whether an AWOL soldier shot Thursday morning is the same man who allegedly shot another AWOL soldier this week.

The victims apparently knew each other, said Kevin Doll, Sheriff's Office spokesman.

The first shooting occurred Monday. Jason Hise, 19, of Zephyrhills was hit in the chest in a field near Wire Road.

Witnesses originally told authorities an unknown male pulled the trigger, then said the shooter was Randall Ziegler, 19,, also of Zephyrhills, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Since the shooting, Hise has been in a medically induced coma at an undisclosed hospital. Doll said deputies did not release details on Monday as they attempted to sort out the case, which is still under investigation.

Three days after allegedly shooting Hise, Ziegler had a gun pulled on him.

Christopher Sims, 18, was charged with shooting Ziegler in the face in a field near Lane Road on Thursday morning.

Sims, also of Zephyrhills, told deputies he and another unidentified man took Ziegler into the field around 5 a.m. with the intention of "scaring him by using a handgun," according to an arrest report.

Sims told deputies he fired the gun at Ziegler's head twice unsuccessfully. The third time, the gun went off. Sims left Ziegler for dead, the report said.

But Ziegler survived. He went to a nearby house for help. Deputies said he was taken to an undisclosed hospital in stable condition.

Sims was charged with attempted murder. He is at the Land O'Lakes Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail.

The Sheriff's Office made the Army aware they had found Ziegler and Hise. As of Thursday, there were no warrants out for their arrests.

It is not known where the men where stationed or how long they had been AWOL. Army officials could not be reached Thursday.

According to reports, thousands of enlistees and soldiers have deserted in the greatest numbers since 2001.

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in spring 2003, the number and rate of desertion increased three years in a row. In 2008, desertions went down slightly, but were still greater than the rate in 2003.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (813) 435-7312.

AWOL soldiers part of investigation into Zephyrhills shootings 03/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 5, 2009 10:53pm]
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