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Amid a hail of anger, one bullet kills a man

Randolph Puryear got involved in the fight his girlfriend was having with her neighbor. But Puryear entered the confrontation with a gun, officers say.

As his girlfriend shouted racial obscenities at her neighbor, Randolph Puryear joined her in the confrontation.

Only Puryear brought a gun.

Hillsborough sheriff's deputies say that factor caused the death Sunday of 39-year-old Jemale Wells.

Puryear, a dentist, has been charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said an argument between children in the 11000 block of Fox Creek Drive in suburban Countryway carried over to the adults Sunday afternoon.

About 4:30 p.m., the fight between Puryear and Wells turned physical, Carter said, and as they grappled, Puryear's gun fired into Wells' abdomen.

Wells was transported to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he died shortly before 10 p.m.

"We are in shock," said neighbor Mary Peterson, who described Wells as an involved parent who was always ready to help others.

"This should have never happened," said Peterson, who added that the argument stemmed from the fact Wells had earlier stopped two children from fighting. "He was just telling one of the kids to go home."

Puryear, 40, of 8426 Boxwood Drive in the Baycrest area, was released from jail Monday after posting $75,000 bail. His office at 8327 W Hillsborough Ave. was closed Monday.

Deputies also charged James Doerner, a Clearwater dentist who lives in Palm Harbor, with resisting arrest without violence and interference in the incident after deputies said he opened the door to the patrol car where Puryear was being held.

Carter declined to name Puryear's girlfriend, saying she was a witness. Neighbors identified her as 37-year-old Sherri Toney, Puryear's dental assistant who lives at 11647 Fox Creek Drive.

Carter said the incident began when Toney's 12-year-old son and some other neighborhood boys got involved in a fight at 11682 Fox Creek Drive. Most of the adults in the area were watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, neighbors said.

After Wells, who is black, broke up the fight, Toney, who is white, arrived at the cul de sac to pick up her child, Carter said, and confronted Wells, calling him a n-----.

Toney then telephoned Puryear to the scene in front of Wells' home at 11680 Fox Creek Drive, Carter said, and he arrived within minutes, exiting his Chrysler convertible with a pistol.

Puryear then pointed his gun at Wells and another neighbor, Carter said, and both he and Toney continued to hurl racial epithets at Wells until the men fought and the gun discharged.

Carter said Puryear was not charged with a hate crime because the incident started with the children's fighting, and "wasn't motivated by race."

Monday, a woman who answered the door at Wells' home and identified herself as "a family friend" said Wells' wife was too grief-stricken to talk about the incident.

Wells, a retired military officer, used to own a beverage store with his wife, Nora, on W Waters Avenue. The couple have two young daughters who were not involved in the argument, Carter said.

After the shooting, Edna Lee, an off-duty Clearwater police officer who lives on the street, came out and handcuffed Puryear and held him for Hillsborough sheriff's deputies.

Toney was not charged.

Peterson, who was down the street at the time of the shooting, said the neighbors at the end of the street are a diverse yet close-knit group for whom race has never been an issue.

"We never had that type of problem before," she said. "There were no racial problems at all."

Records show Puryear has no prior criminal record in Florida. Toney was charged in 1994 with petty theft and in 1997 with DUI, records show. The disposition of those cases was not available Monday.

Toney could not be reached for comment.

_ Times researcher John Martin and staff writer Angela Moore contributed to this report. Amy Herdy can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or