Friday, November 24, 2017
Public safety

Deputies: Pastor's daughter struck as gun accidently goes off in Pinellas church

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ST. PETERSBURG — Dustin Bueller wanted to see Moises Zambrana's gun, according to authorities.

Bueller turns 21 next week and was thinking about buying one for himself, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

So after a Sunday morning service let out and parishioners were still milling about inside the Lealman church, he asked Zambrana, 48, to show him his Ruger 9mm.

The men took precautions. They walked away from the crowd in a recreation room at Grace Connection Church and into a closet. Zambrana removed the Ruger's magazine, the Sheriff's Office said, and started to explain the gun's safety features.

But he forgot about the round in the chamber.

Around 12:30 p.m., the gun accidentally went off, according to the Sheriff's Office, sending a bullet through the wall and into the head of Hannah Kelley, 20, — Bueller's girlfriend and daughter of the church's pastor, Tim Kelley. "It does appear this was a tragic accident," said Cecilia Barreda, a sheriff's spokeswoman.

Hannah Kelley, of St. Petersburg, was listed in critical condition Sunday night after the Sheriff's Office said she underwent surgery at Bayfront Medical Center. Some family friends said in a Facebook post that they were at the hospital and praying for her.

A third man — John Penu, 19, of St. Petersburg — was also looking at the gun in the closet when it went off. He declined to comment Sunday, but said on Facebook that Kelley is a lifelong friend.

"Appreciate every one of your prayers!" he wrote. "And please keep spreading the word to continue the praying!"

Zambrana, of Pinellas Park, has a concealed weapons permit. Records show he also is a licensed security officer. He did not return a call for comment.

No charges were filed.

Grace Connection member Tony Diehl had returned to his Kenneth City home Sunday afternoon when he heard about a shooting at a church. He flipped on his TV and saw it was his.

Diehl, 24, drove back to the converted fire station at 4017 56th Ave. N where he spends every Sunday morning.

He wanted to pray.

He found the church doors locked, crime-scene tape strung across its back entrance. News trucks lined the street; their satellite towers joined the palm trees in the air above the parking lot.

Diehl sometimes works the soundboard for Grace Connection's services with Zambrana, who he describes as a "great family man."

Zambrana helps run Grace Connection's services, Diehl said, and also serves as security for the church's events.

As Diehl drove back to Grace Connection on Sunday, he called his father, also a member.

Diehl's father told him he knew of three church regulars with concealed weapons permits. One is Zambrana.

"I was kind of hoping it wasn't going to be Moises," Diehl said. "Why does this need to happen?"

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Will Hobson can be reached at [email protected]

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