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Stray bullet hits man watching TV in his Palm Harbor condo

PALM HARBOR — Instead of catching Super Bowl XLV, Jim Freeman settled on his couch Sunday night to watch Goodfellas. He was eating Chinese takeout as his dachshund, Sammy, snuggled up against him.

Around 6:40 p.m., he heard five gunshots and suddenly felt a sting in his face.

"Oh, my gosh," the 40-year-old psychologist thought. "I better call 911 before I pass out."

Meanwhile, his wife, Denise Freeman, was catching up on work, going through paperwork at the nursing facility where she's an activities director. A nurse told her a sheriff's deputy was on the phone.

"It can't be anything good, right?" she thought.

The deputy told her that her husband had been shot in the face in their condominium in a fluke accident, and he had been airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center.

"I had horrible things in my mind right then," she said.

She gathered herself and her things and made her way to the hospital. She had never been to Bayfront.

She and her husband of nearly 20 years have lived in their second-floor condo in Palm Harbor's Glen Eagles subdivision only since July.

She later recounted her thoughts as she drove.

"What if I had been there? Would I have gotten shot?"

When she later spoke to her husband, the left side of his face swollen, he made note of the movie he'd been watching.

"Pretty ironic, huh?" he said.

Freeman was to undergo surgery Monday night to remove debris from his face. The bullet might have to stay.

• • •

As police officers and paramedics came into Freeman's condo, Sammy the dachshund stood fast by his owner.

The dog barked as authorities worked on his master, who had a bullet lodged in his left cheek.

"He loves his daddy," Freeman's wife said later.

Downstairs, a neighbor immediately hit the floor when the shots were fired. She called police, too.

Pinellas County sheriff's deputies believe the shooter fired at another vehicle and missed. It happened in the parking lot at 2350 Cypress Pond Road, in front of the Cypress Lakes Apartments.

Deputies say it appears someone was firing shots from a moving vehicle and struck a Freightliner truck cab and a Chevy Colorado sport utility vehicle parked in the lot.

"They were shooting at the vehicles, and one of the fired shots penetrated a wall and hit an individual watching the television," sheriff's spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said.

The shooter was seen driving a white, four-door, compact pickup with chrome rims and blue LED lights on its dash, she said.

Deputies ask anyone with information to call the Sheriff's Office at (727) 582-6200 or, to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-8477.

Times staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report.

Stray bullet hits man watching TV in his Palm Harbor condo 02/07/11 [Last modified: Monday, February 7, 2011 10:42pm]
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