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Fugitive escapes after he is shot

A wounded fugitive disregarded a doctor's advice Monday and walked out of Bayfront Medical Center _ and into freedom _ less than a day after a bail bondsman trying to apprehend him shot him in the neck, authorities said.

Dennis McPherson, 43, who has active Pinellas County warrants charging him with robbery, failure to appear and theft, tried to escape in his vehicle Sunday night when two bondsmen approached him outside the Best Western Motel on U.S. 19 in Holiday at about 11:30 p.m., authorities said.

One of the bondsmen, Carl E. Ishikawa, 29, of Brandon, fired three shots at the vehicle from a 9mm handgun. One shot struck McPherson in the neck, sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers said.

McPherson, who authorities said was unarmed during the shooting, was taken by helicopter to Bayfront Medical Center and listed in stable condition early Monday.

By that afternoon, however, his hospital bed was empty.

"They left nobody to guard him," said Pinellas County sheriff's spokesman Deputy Calvin Dennie. "He took his tubes out and left."

With the warrants on McPherson still outstanding, Dennie said, "We'll start all over again" looking for him. "I don't know who dropped the ball on this one," he said.

Pasco deputies asked the hospital to notify them before McPherson was released but did not get a call, said Pasco sheriff's Sgt. Kerry O'Connor. "I'm sure they had every intention of doing it. It just kind of got lost in the shuffle somehow."

McPherson had checked into the Best Western on Friday, said a motel manager who declined to give her name.

The Florida Department of Corrections said McPherson served nine years on an attempted murder conviction out of Lee County and was released in April 1990. His last known address was on Cheval Street in Holiday.

Ishikawa of 1915 Coco Meadow Circle was booked into county jail in Land O'Lakes on one count of aggravated battery Monday and was out on $15,000 bail at 5:30 a.m. His partner, Daniel Zutler, 34, was not charged.

Ishikawa gave Aaron's Bail Bonds in Tampa as his business address. While the agency acknowledged Ishikawa worked for it as an independent contractor, an attorney for the company said Aaron's was not involved with the McPherson case.

Records show McPherson got out of the Pinellas County Jail on March 22 on a bond from John Vath, who runs Big John's Bail Bonds in Tampa. It was Big John's that posted the bail for Ishikawa, according to the Pasco County jail. Vath did not return a call for comment.

Both Ishikawa and Zutler are licensed to carry concealed firearms, said Sally Burt, the bail bonds coordinator with the state Department of Insurance, which regulates the bond business.

Reached by phone, Ishikawa declined to comment.