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Dropped rifle fires on impact; man injured

A 39-year-old man staying at a Beverly Hills motel accidentally shot his right thumb and index finger Friday morning when he dropped his loaded .50-caliber rifle as he gathered his belongings from the room.

Wayne Austin, of Apopka, suffered serious injuries and was taken to Citrus Memorial Hospital, said Citrus County sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney.

The 911 call from the Beverly Hills Motel at 4395 North Lecanto Highway came just after 7 a.m., Tierney said. When deputies arrived at the scene, Austin was already in an ambulance. He was in a great deal of pain, Tierney said, and his right hand was bandaged.

Austin told a deputy he had his hands full while he and a co-worker loaded their truck. The rifle fell, Austin tried to grab it, but it went off as it struck the ground, according to Tierney.

She said the man forgot the weapon, which was inside a zippered cloth case, was loaded.

Austin also had another rifle in his possession, said Tierney, who added that Austin does irrigation work and stays at the motel when he has to work in the area. Tierney said records show he is authorized to have the rifles.

Jail inmate charged

with stealing gun

LECANTO _ A man already at the Citrus County jail was charged with an additional crime Thursday after he was accused of stealing a revolver from the vehicle of a Homosassa man in August.

Michael Scott Southern, 39, who is listed on an arrest report as homeless, was charged with grand theft of a firearm. He remained at the jail Friday evening, where he was already being held on charges of grand theft, burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and burglary of a dwelling. His total bond was set at $32,000.

Nicholas Burns, 42, of Homosassa, an acquaintence of Southern, identified Southern as a suspect in the theft of his gun. He told a Citrus County sheriff's detective that he believed his revolver was taken from his vehicle while it was parked at his residence on Aug. 21 or 22, according to an arrest report.

On Thursday, the report said, Burns was shown a photo lineup and identified Southern.

At the jail, Southern confessed to stealing Burns' gun.

He told the detective that he forgot his wallet in Burns' car, and when he retrieved it, he noticed the gun in the back seat. Southern said he didn't want to leave a loaded gun in the car, so he brought it into a residence.

The next day, according to the report, he decided to keep it.

_ Suzannah Gonzales can be reached at 860-7312 or