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Shot in head, man drives himself 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 has declined to talk publicly about the shooting, an early morning ordeal that began when he stopped at a Hess gas station at 2:45 a.m. Tuesday.

Hillsborough sheriff's Lt. Rod Redersaid 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 had stopped at the Hess station at the corner of Lithia Pinecrest and Bloomingdale Avenue in Brandon. While inside, a man approached him and asked for directions, Reder said.

The man was accompanied by a second 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 Lithia Pinecrest and Brooker roads, the small red car approached Clark's car.

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 _ a large white man with a crew cut and an olive green shirt _ 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 back to the red car, which drove away. The victim did not give them any cash, officials said.

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 small car the men were in was possibly a Neon or Geo. It had a loud muffler.

The man who asked for directions _ the driver _ was described as black, about 18 to 22 years old, 160 pounds. He was wearing a red and white striped shirt in the video. The other man was white, about 5-foot-5, with a husky build.

Anyone with information about the suspects or the crime may call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 247-8200 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-873-8477.

_ Tamara Lush can be reached at 226-3373 or at lushsptimes.com.

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