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Neighbor on accidental shooting death: 'It could have happened when we were standing there talking.'

A 44-year-old construction worker was shot and killed when a co-worker slipped and his gun discharged at a job site on Riverlachen Way in Riverview, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. [PAUL GUZZO | Times]
A 44-year-old construction worker was shot and killed when a co-worker slipped and his gun discharged at a job site on Riverlachen Way in Riverview, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. [PAUL GUZZO | Times]
Published May 10

RIVERVIEW — Brenda Bingham made small talk Wednesday morning with three construction workers remodeling her neighbor's home.

They rolled their eyes over what fun the crew would have working on the roof in the stifling Florida heat.

Then Bingham went back inside to relax, no longer bothered by the constant construction noise.

"It's been going on for six to eight weeks," she said. "I'm just used to it."

But she couldn't ignore the sound of sirens that interrupted the work later in the day.

Stepping back outside, she learned that one member of the crew had been shot and killed by another whose gun discharged as he slipped while stepping from his pickup truck. The victim was on the roof.

Bingham said she thought first about the family of the man who had been shot.

Then she thought about herself.

"It could have happened when we were standing there talking," she said. "What if he had fallen then?"

The death marked the third time in two weeks that the discharge of a gun made news in the Tampa Bay area. A deputy's gun went off April 30 in a Wesley Chapel school cafeteria, and a man was injured Sunday when the Derringer inside his wife's purse discharged at a Land O' Lakes Publix.

"Accidents seem to be happening," Bingham said.

READ MORE: Pasco deputy's gun goes off in Weightman Middle School cafeteria, strikes wall

READ MORE: They were standing at a Publix register when her purse fell. Her Derringer fired and hit him.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office did not release the names of the construction workers in the shooting at 8915 Riverlachen Way, on a cul-de-sac just north of the Alafia River near Riverview Drive and 78th Street. The make and model of the gun also were not released.

The man with the gun was 43, the victim 44, the Sheriff's Office said.

The shooting happened as one of the men was getting out of his truck, parked on the street, and slipped on a piece of construction debris, sheriff's Maj. Frank Losat said in a news conference Wednesday. It happened as the man was moving the gun between his waistband and pocket. The gun discharged.

The victim and the third member of the crew were on the roof at the time, standing 6 feet to 10 feet apart.

The third crew member is the son of the man with the gun, Losat said. The victim was a longtime friend of their family.

Deputies were called to the scene around 1:45 p.m. The victim was taken to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Neighbor Bingham said the three workers were "laughing and joking around and carrying on like best friends" earlier in the day. "Who would have thought this could happen?"

Investigators found markings on the ground that appear to back the story that the man with the gun had slipped, Losat said. The man is cooperating with the investigation.

Still, Losat said, "We can't call this an accident at this point. It is definitely a homicide because someone died."

The Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's website lists Pathyil and Molly Abraham if Wimauma as owners of the property.

The Abrahams could not be reached immediately for comment.

Bingham said the current owners have never lived there. The remodeling work was being done on the front of the one-floor, three-bedroom, two-bath, 2,500-square-foot home.

On any given day, Bingham said, as many as seven workers were involved in the work.

No work was being done Thursday, the day after the shooting.

Despite the death, Bingham said she still believes everyone has the right to carry a gun if licensed.

"I can understand why he'd have a gun," Bingham said. "Contractors have a lot of jobs and are dealing with various types of people on jobs and can be affronted."

Losat said those who carry a gun need to know how to use it.

"You need to know if your gun has a safety on it," he said. "Have the proper training if you are going to carry a gun on your person."

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com or follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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