PORT RICHEY — Pasco sheriff's investigators are searching for a 27-year-old suspect in connection with a fatal shooting outside a strip club early Thursday.
David Avant, 27, of Clearwater was shot and killed about 2:15 a.m. Thursday at the Brass Flamingo at 9034 U.S. 19. Authorities have issued a murder warrant for the arrest of Taurezs Leigh Bullock.
Later Thursday morning, two yards off the shoulder of the road, a black semi-automatic handgun was found in the grass. It was too early to tell if the gun was used in the killing, said Sgt. James Sessa.
Deputies said an unidentified friend of Bullock's began arguing with Avant at the club. The argument turned physical and Bullock joined in. A bystander tried to intervene, and Bullock pulled a gun and shot Avant and the bystander, authorities said.
Avant was found in the parking lot. The unidentified bystander was taken to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point.
Investigators suspect the shooter or shooters ran off on foot. Air and canine units searched the area.
Bullock has seen his share of jail time. He's been arrested six times in Pasco County since 2008 on charges from cocaine possession to carrying a concealed weapon. Deputies believe he was involved with the Valentine Bloods gang.
Later Thursday, Avant friend Lauren Merola made it her duty to raise money for Avant's family.
She knew Avant and his girlfriend, Ashley Weber, since the three went to Countryside High School together. Avant and Weber had been together since middle school, she said.
Even then, Merola said, she remembered Avant as a cool-headed mediator. Whenever rival groups in their high school clashed, Avant would be there to calm both sides, she said.
After graduation, the couple went on to have four sons. Merola said Avant used his past, growing up on a rough part of Drew Street in Clearwater, as motivation to be a good dad.
"He grew up in poverty," she said, "but he made a way out for his kids."
Avant ended up in the Pinellas County jail a handful of times. He was convicted of resisting an officer without violence.
Avant looked after friends and family, Merola said. The last time Merola, a single mother, remembers seeing him, he had come to check on her and her children.
Now, she's trying to set up a way to give back to him. A bank wouldn't let her open a charity account for him because of her credit, she said. So, she started a Facebook group to raise money for Christmas toys for his boys, all under 7 years old.
Merola asked them what they wanted and got these answers: Batman and Incredible Hulk action figures and a bike. The oldest two said they wanted Nerf guns.
"That's not a good idea," she told them. "Let's not get any guns."
Times staff writer Claire Wiseman contributed to this report.