St. Pete man apologizes for BB gun shooting at gay pride parade

Cornelius Davis, 20, offered to plead guilty to a felony, go to jail for six months and pay $1,000.
Cornelius Davis, 20, offered to plead guilty to a felony, go to jail for six months and pay $1,000.
Published Aug. 3, 2013

LARGO — The man accused of shooting someone with a BB gun at the St. Pete Pride parade apologized to him in court Friday: "Eric, I've already asked God to forgive me. Now I'm asking you."

Cornelius Davis, 20, also offered through his attorney to plead guilty to a felony crime and serve six months in jail.

It wasn't enough for Assistant State Attorney Joseph Murray, who said Davis deserves to go to prison.

And Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Chris Helinger called it "an aggravated situation," noting that "the allegation is, he shot at somebody with a BB gun because of their sexual orientation."

Unable to reach agreement, attorneys will discuss the matter in a hearing later this month.

Meanwhile the victim in the case, Eric Bunzow, said outside of the courtroom that he wants Davis to serve the maximum penalty, five years in prison.

"You don't pull a gun on somebody and get away with it," said Bunzow, 34, a computer repairman. He said he and others in the gay community think it's important to take a stand against incidents like this one.

"We're not going to put up with anybody's crap," he said. "We are human beings just like everyone else."

Bunzow, who was struck in the leg, said he could have been seriously hurt and also said it was lucky things didn't escalate.

"If I would have seen him, I would have reacted," Bunzow said, noting that he was carrying a Glock handgun at the time of the incident. "It could have ended very badly for him."

Bunzow said he was walking in a group when he felt something like a bee sting in his leg. He said it caused a red welt, and he later saw a doctor about it. At the time of the incident, Bunzow did not see anyone shooting at him, but one of his friends did and heard the man shouting gay slurs. Then one of his friends found a BB on the ground.

Bunzow said Davis may have been aiming at a member of his group, who, as Davis put it, was not dressed conservatively — sporting Speedo-type shorts, a half-shirt and furry leggings. Bunzow said he himself was wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

St. Petersburg police have previously said that Davis yelled at Bunzow and his friends on their way to the parade, saying they should "put some clothes on" and that "this is a disgrace, there are kids around here."

Davis has been charged with battery. Because prosecutors consider it a hate crime, it's classified as a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Davis' attorney, Assistant Public Defender James Maskowitz, initially proposed a deal that would have brought four months in jail. Later, Davis offered to plead guilty to a felony and go to jail for six months. He would also pay $1,000 so the Pinellas County School Board could send someone to an anti-bullying conference — an idea proposed by Bunzow.

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Davis also read his statement, in which he said, "I'm very upset with myself," and he criticized his own "very immature decision."

But Helinger disagreed when Maskowitz said Davis had shown the court "great remorse."

"I don't think that letter shows great remorse myself. I think that's an all-about-me letter," Helinger said.