TOWN 'N COUNTRY — Outside an apartment where two children watched a Christmas movie with their mother Sunday night, a security officer approached two men in the darkness.
Ammar Al Nueimy spotted the men standing between buildings about 10 p.m. near 7307 Casitas Court at Royal Oaks Apartments. He told them they were trespassing and would have to leave.
One of the men pulled a gun and put two bullets into Al Nueimy, according to Hillsborough County sheriff's officials, leaving the security officer, 50, bleeding in the parking lot.
Al Nueimy, who has worked for Cuenca Safety and Crime Prevention for three years, according to the owner of the business, remained hospitalized Monday. Detectives are investigating the shooting, trying to determine the identities of the two men who fled. So far, a generic description is all they have.
Al Nueimy underwent surgery at 2 a.m. Monday to control internal bleeding, said Ricardo Cuenca-Vasquez, the owner of Cuenca Safety and Crime Prevention. He was hit in his hand and in his stomach.
Speaking through a Spanish translator, Cuenca-Vasquez said his company employs about 20 security officers, all of whom carry weapons. Al Nueimy did not fire his weapon during the confrontation, sheriff's officials said.
"He's a good worker," Cuenca-Vasquez said of Al Nueimy. "He's one of the best men the company has."
In an interview with Bay News 9, Al Nueimy's wife said the two had fled Iraq several years ago because they were worried about their safety there.
"He comes from a country that was killing their people, and he gets hurt here?" asked Sheryl Cerrato.
"He has a daughter, he has a son, he has a family," Cerrato told Bay News 9. "He's out there helping these people; he isn't hurting them. It took two cowards to pull a gun and shoot him."
At least two stray bullets blew out windows of nearby apartments, piercing a TV screen in one and raining a wave of shattered glass over the heads of two children in the other.
Andrea Matheus, 22, was sitting on the edge of a sofa inside her second-floor apartment beside her 4-year-old son and 3-month-old daughter when the shooting happened. Nearby, Matheus' boyfriend, Danny Rosales, played an Xbox game.
While watching a Disney Christmas movie with her kids on a laptop computer, Matheus heard what sounded like the loud snapping of fireworks, she said. Just then, a bullet blew through the patio door.
Rosales, 29, dropped the Xbox controller and helped her scoop up the children as they hunkered down in a hallway. They dialed 911 from a cellphone.
A mound of shattered glass still lay at the foot of the patio door by midmorning. Tiny fragments were scattered like snowflakes atop the kitchen counter. Matheus suffered a minor cut on her foot, she said. Both children were unharmed.
"We just moved here in August," Matheus said. "The whole time we have been here, it has been very quiet. But with something like this, you're kind of debating whether you picked the right place."
Al Nueimy is one of a handful of private security officers who have been attacked in the line of duty in recent years. A year ago, 38-year-old Michael Valentin, an officer with Critical Intervention Services, was shot to death while patrolling Grande Oaks Apartments in East Tampa. Authorities arrested 16-year-old Larry Donnell Brown, who is awaiting trial on a murder charge.
And in May 2011, detectives arrested Bradley Bolden in the shooting death of 26-year-old Mathew F. Little, also a CIS security officer, who died while patrolling a St. Petersburg apartment complex. Bolden, now 22, was found incompetent and is undergoing treatment.
Times photographer Eve Edelheit contributed to this report.