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Front yard fight ends with gunshot

It started with five teenage girls painting T-shirts for a party.

It ended with a 38-year-old Palm Harbor man being charged with attempted murder after a violent confrontation with a neighbor, authorities said.

Marc Ament was accused of pulling a gun from under his sweater during a fight with a neighbor about 5:15 p.m. Thursday and pointing it at the man and pulling the trigger.

The victim, 39-year-old Craig A. Grippe, grabbed for the gun, and the shot hit the ground next to him, Pinellas County sheriff's officials said.

The incident took place in the Reserve at Lake Tarpon, where homes sell for $350,000 and up. The small neighborhood is on the southwest shore of the lake in the Highland Lakes area of Palm Harbor.

Late Thursday afternoon, the girls were in front of Grippe's home on Talah Drive painting T-shirts and making items for a party. Ament drove by and stopped his car, then backed toward the home, deputies said. The girls, who knew Ament, ran inside and told Grippe, the father of one of the teens.

Grippe, who could not be reached for comment Friday, walked outside and told Ament to leave.

He did, deputies said, and the girls went back out front. Ten minutes later, Ament returned on a bicycle and told the girls to get Grippe.

Grippe came out and the men argued in the street, deputies said. Ament hit Grippe, then Grippe threw a punch. As they fought, Ament pulled a .38-caliber handgun from under his sweater and pointed it at Grippe, deputies said.

The men struggled and Ament pulled the trigger, deputies said. A bullet hit the ground. Grippe was able to pull the gun away from Ament and took it into the house. Deputies arrived, secured the gun and arrested Ament.

Ament, who works in the produce department at an Albertsons supermarket, was charged with attempted murder and three misdemeanors: battery, carrying a concealed weapon and discharging a firearm in public. He was being held at the Pinellas County Jail on Friday in lieu of $101,500 bail.

Ament lives with his parents on Tarian Court, one street away from Talah Drive. During a search of the home, which his parents said they allowed, deputies seized two loaded handguns, four rifles, two large knives and 101 rounds of assorted ammunition, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Ament's father, Joseph Ament, 71, said his son collected World War II guns and kept them in his closet. Ament's parents said their son is not a violent person.

Joseph Ament said he apologized to Grippe after the incident. There was no history of friction between the two families, he said.

Ament's parents said they recently saw Grippe at the holiday party of a mutual friend and have allowed his son to fish from the dock behind their home.

"In speaking to him briefly last night, he said the gun was in his pocket and when they started fighting it fell out of his pocket," said Ament's mother, Antoinette Ament. "Now I don't know about firing it."

Ament's parents said they aren't sure what happened but said their son used poor judgment.

"He realizes he made a mistake," Joseph Ament said.

Friday evening, Ament spoke to his parents by telephone from the jail.

"He did tell me to tell Craig that he was sorry," Joseph Ament said.

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