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Shot in head, he drives to safety

Someone put a bullet in Billy Clark's head early Tuesday morning and left him to die on a dark, deserted east Hillsborough road.

But he didn't die. Instead, he drove himself to the hospital.

Clark, 54, is in fair condition after undergoing surgery at Brandon Hospital, and is expected to make a full recovery. He declined to talk publicly about the shooting, an ordeal that began when he stopped at a Hess gas station at 2:45 a.m.

Hillsborough sheriff's Lt. Rod Reder said Clark is used to being awake at odd hours _ he is a newspaper carrier for the New York Times, and was on his route.

Clark stopped to buy something at the Hess station at Lithia Pinecrest Road and Bloomingdale Avenue in Brandon. There, a man approached him and asked for directions, Reder said.

The man was with another man, Reder said. Both were captured on the store's video surveillance tape as they lingered near the counter.

Clark left and drove north on Lithia Pinecrest. The two men got into a small red car and followed. Near the intersection of Lithia Pinecrest and Brooker roads, their car approached Clark's.

The driver, the same man who asked for directions, motioned for Clark to stop. Reder said Clark stopped because he thought the men needed more directions.

Reder said the passenger got out of the red car and ran over to Clark's window.

"He grabbed Billy's shirt and demanded money," Reder said. The man then pulled out a small handgun and pulled the trigger, Reder said.

The man ran to the red car, which sped away without any cash.

Clark drove to Brandon Hospital. He was alert enough to give a description of the two men and the car to investigators.

According to Clark and the surveillance videotape, the car the men were in was possibly a Neon or Geo. It had a loud muffler.

The driver was described as black, about 18-22, 160 pounds. He was wearing a red and white striped shirt in the video. The other man was white, about 5 feet 5, with a husky build and a crew cut.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at (813) 247-8200 or CrimeStoppers, toll-free at 1-800-873-8477.