WESLEY CHAPEL — Pasco deputies were searching Sunday for a man who pulled a gun and started firing at a house party, injuring three teenagers, including a Pasco High football star.
Authorities were called to a home at 3551 Oakwood Drive in Wesley Chapel about 2:15 a.m. after getting reports of gunshots. When they arrived, they found three teens had been shot.
Marquis Dixon, 18, of Dade City, who was shot in the chest, is in stable condition at a local hospital. Dixon was named to the Times' All-North Suncoast football team after making 39 tackles and an interception for the Pirates last fall.
Jnasia Clower, 14, of Zephyrhills was shot in the knee and was also taken to a local hospital. Robert White, 17, of Zephyrhills was shot in the hand and was treated at the scene.
Kevin Doll, a spokesman with the Sheriff's Office, said authorities had few details about the gunman and weren't sure if he was at the party.
Deputies have received differing reports of the size of the graduation party; some said no more than 20, while others pegged the number at more than 100. But by the time deputies arrived at the home, few people were around to talk with detectives.
"Most everybody was gone," Doll said. "Gunshots tend to have that effect."
According to Pasco records, the home is owned by Levy Merica Perez, who could not be reached Sunday for comment.
Mark Christmas, one of Dixon's teammates at Pasco High, said he was at the party earlier that night but left early.
He figured there were easily more than 100 teens at the house.
Christmas said he didn't hear about the shooting until the next morning, when he received text messages from some friends.
"Everyone was having fun and dancing … no one was fighting or anything," said Christmas, a senior. "Marquis was just having a good time. He's a good guy. I was really surprised to hear about that."
Pasco High football coach Tom McHugh said he visited Dixon in the hospital Sunday but declined to go into detail about the teen's condition.
"It's just an unfortunate situation … it's really a shame," McHugh said. "He's a great kid."
McHugh said Dixon had recently signed a scholarship to play football at Dean College, a small private school about 45 minutes from Boston.
Attempts to reach family members of the three teens Sunday were unsuccessful.
Farther down the block on Oakwood, some neighbors said they heard the usual sounds of partying teenagers but no gunshots that night.
"All we knew was that last night there was a loud party," neighbor Davella Todd said. "We didn't hear about it until the cops woke us up this morning. Usually, you couldn't ask for a quieter place."
Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6120.