Friday, December 15, 2017
Public safety

Family, friends pray as pastor's daughter, shot at church, remains critical

ST. PETERSBURG — As a pastor's 20-year-old daughter continues treatment after what appears to be a freak shooting accident at her church, friends and family and hundreds of strangers have been holding a passionate online vigil for her recovery.

Hannah Kelley was shot in the head Sunday after her boyfriend, 20-year-old Dustin Bueller, and 48-year-old Moises Zambrana were looking at Zambrana's gun in a church closet, deputies said. It happened after the morning's services, and Zambrana removed the Ruger 9mm's magazine as he was explaining the gun's safety features. He forgot about the bullet in the chamber, and somehow the gun went off, shooting through a wall and hitting Kelley, authorities said.

Kelley underwent brain surgery at Bayfront Medical Center on Sunday and is still in "critical stages," said the family's spokesman, attorney David Gibbs of Christian Law Group.

"However, every day is tremendously hopeful," Gibbs said. "Obviously, the first 24 to 48 hours are very scary. But the doctors have been able to keep the brain swelling down with medicine and Hannah's been getting excellent trauma care from the staff at Bayfront."

Gibbs said that while the Pinellas County sheriff's investigators have gotten involved in the case, the family does not wish to see Zambrana, who has a concealed weapons permit, face any legal repercussions.

"Moises was a friend of Hannah's and has been in the church a long time and is a good guy," Gibbs said. "The family has said we have no desire to see him suffer any more than he's already suffering."

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said it appeared to be a "tragic accident," and no criminal charges have been filed.

The family requested that Bayfront Medical Center release no updates on Kelley's condition, according to a hospital spokeswoman. On Tuesday, a family friend posted on a Facebook group page called "Prayers for Hannah Grace Kelley," saying Bueller told her that the "doctor is pleased once again that she made it through the night, but we still need to see the swelling go down."

More than 2,000 people had joined the group page by Tuesday and were posting prayers and concern for Kelley.

Kelley's father, Tim Kelley, is the pastor of Grace Connection Church in Lealman, where the incident occurred.

A special prayer service for Hannah Kelley will take the place of a regular midweek service at 7 p.m. today at the church, which is at 4017 56th Ave N. The service will be open to the public.

Emily Nipps can be reached at [email protected].com or (727) 893-8452.

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