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‘We didn’t think the gun was loaded.' New details in Lithia teen shooting

The Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office released hundreds of pages of documents, photographs and other materials Thursday in the manslaughter case of Christopher Bevan, who is accused of shooting Bradley Hulett.

One Friday afternoon last December, four teenage boys left Newsome High School and gathered at the home where one of them lived in the Lithia area of southeast Hillsborough County.

Bradley Hulett, 15, played games on a desktop computer as three of his friends wandered into a master bedroom. In an attached bathroom, they found a handgun atop a cabinet. They thought it was unloaded. Someone said they should use it to scare their friend, according to investigative documents. They brought the gun into the next room.

“Oh, that’s real,” Hulett said.

“What if it’s loaded?” one of the boys heard 15-year-old Christopher Bevan say.

Just then, the gun went off. Hulett was shot in the head.

The events surrounding the Dec. 13, 2019, shooting are detailed in hundreds of pages of documents, photographs, audio and video files that the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office released Thursday in the case against Bevan.

Bradley Hulett played for the Valrico Venom, an Amateur Athletic Union basketball team, and led the team in scoring last fall. Bradley, 15, was fatally shot at a friend's house in Lithia on Dec. 13, 2019.
Bradley Hulett played for the Valrico Venom, an Amateur Athletic Union basketball team, and led the team in scoring last fall. Bradley, 15, was fatally shot at a friend's house in Lithia on Dec. 13, 2019. [ Courtesy the Hulett family ]

Bevan, now 16, is charged with manslaughter in Hulett’s death.

The materials don’t tell the complete story. But taken together, they offer new details about the horror and heartbreak that followed.

The 911 call came in just after 4 p.m. When a call taker answered, a panicked-sounding young man spoke rapidly. He was heard asking someone what their address was, then struggled to convey what had happened.

“My friend didn’t think the gun was loaded,” he said. “We didn’t think the gun was loaded, and someone accidentally got shot.”

“Are they awake?” he was asked.

“No.”

“Who got shot?”

“One of my friends.”

The boy said the gun belonged to his friend’s father. He said it was put away in his bedroom.

“Keep pressure on it,” he told someone. “... He’s breathing. ... My legs are going numb."

“When did this happen?” the call taker asked.

“Like two minutes ago.”

“Was it accidental?”

“Yes,” the boy said. “It was an accident.”

The first arriving deputy was directed to a downstairs bedroom. Hulett sat upright in a black computer chair, the documents say. Bevan stood beside him, pressing a towel against his head.

Paramedics rushed Hulett to Brandon Regional Hospital. At 5:45 p.m., a doctor pronounced him dead.

A deputy brought his father to the hospital. He explained that his wife was away in Las Vegas with Bradley’s sister for a cheer competition. He told the deputy he did not know what he was going to do, that he felt like his life was over.

Related: For family of teen shot at Tampa cop's home, anger and unanswered questions

The home where the shooting occurred belonged to Edwin Perez, a Tampa police officer and the father of one of the boys. He was on duty and not home when the shooting happened.

Perez later arrived and gave consent for detectives to search the house.

Bevan’s parents arrived at the house. He spoke with them privately as deputies awaited a crime scene unit.

A deputy explained to the teen that investigators would take swabs of his hands and take his clothing as evidence. The deputy noted that Bevan became increasingly distressed. At one point, he asked for a glass of water. A crime scene technician later swabbed his hands and collected his clothing. Perez gave him a pair of athletic shorts to wear.

As deputies secured and searched the home, a few noticed what they described as an odor of burnt marijuana.

In an interview one of the teens later gave with an attorney present, he said that one of the other boys had retrieved a dab cartridge from a bedroom closet. A dab cartridge is a device that contains a concentrated form of cannabis, which can be attached to a vaporizer pen for smoking. The teen said they were going to use it later that night, but had not smoked yet.

The boy explained that they’d gone to the home so the officer’s son could take a shower, according to court records. While Hulett played on the computer, Bevan used one of the bathrooms and ended up clogging the toilet. The boys searched for a plunger.

The officer’s son later said in a statement that his father’s bedroom was locked. He said he used a paperclip to unlock the door and get inside, according to court documents. He found the gun in the master bathroom.

The Tampa Bay Times is not naming the two other teens who were present when the shooting occurred due to their ages and the fact that they have not been charged.

The boys and their parents retained legal counsel. Bevan did not speak with investigators. But an attorney who represented him told investigators it was his understanding that Bevan believed the weapon was unloaded, that it was not pointed at anyone specifically, and that it “went off” as he held it.

Related: Tampa officer suspended for failing to secure gun in teen's fatal shooting

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren announced in February that Bevan would be charged with manslaughter. He also said Officer Perez would not be charged because there was not enough evidence to show he violated Florida’s safe storage law for firearms. The law requires guns that could be accessed by minors to be secured in a locked box with a trigger lock or in a place where “a reasonable person would believe it to be secure.”

A Tampa Police Department internal affairs review found that Perez failed to properly secure his weapon by leaving a round in the chamber. The department gave him a 40-hour unpaid suspension, which he served in June.

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