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Witnesses in tow, officer gets his man

A mishap with a handgun brought Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office deputies to the scene of an accidental shooting early Saturday _ and handed them the suspects in an attempted armed robbery.

Sheriff's officials say Thomas DeFranco, 41, of Tampa, was sitting in his car with two friends on Waters Avenue about 2 a.m. Saturday when he was approached by a man carrying a gun. The man demanded money, but DeFranco said he didn't have any, and the man turned, got back into a car with two companions and drove off, said sheriff's Sgt. S.K. Nelson.

While a deputy was taking a report on the attempted robbery, Nelson said, he learned of a call about an accidental shooting involving men in a blue Volkswagen beetle _ the same kind of car the men who tried to rob DeFranco were driving.

That deputy packed up DeFranco and the other witnesses and took them to the shooting scene. There, Damien Jennings, 19, of Tampa was telling authorities that as he attempted to unload his gun, it went off and hit Jordan M. Boatman in the face, Nelson said.

When the robbery victims arrived, they identified Jennings and another man, Shawn Jackson, 20, of Tampa as two of the men involved in the robbery attempt, Nelson said. Jennings and Jackson were arrested, and Boatman was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he was in fair condition, according to a spokeswoman.