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Man accidentally shot himself near St. Pete steakhouse, police say

ST. PETERSBURG — The 28-year-old man who stumbled into a sushi bar late Thursday with a bullet wound to his chest accidentally shot himself, police said.

Charles E. Pitts, 28, was taken to the hospital about 10:30 p.m. He is expected to survive.

Before the shooting, Pitts had been at Hiro's Tokyo steakhouse and sushi bar, at the Mainstream Station shopping complex on Fourth Street N just south of 54th Avenue N.

"He had been inside the restaurant, then left," said Kirk Aulin, 18, an Eckerd College student who went to the bar with some friends earlier in the night. "He came back in a minute later with bullet holes in his chest."

Aulin said people in the restaurant swarmed around Pitts, who was screaming and clutching his chest.

"I heard a bunch of people gasping and people crowding around the scene," he said.

Fellow patron Kayla Lepiscopo, 18, said she recognized the wounded man as the guy who'd tried to flirt with her and her friend minutes earlier in the parking lot behind the restaurant.

She said the man had been leaning against a car.

A couple minutes later, she said, he stumbled into the bar covered in blood.

"He just collapsed," she said.

Patrons said they saw a gun in the man's waistband when paramedics came and took him to the hospital.

St. Petersburg Police determined the shooting was accidental after reviewing surveillance video from the area and interviewing witnesses, officials said.

No further information was immediately available.