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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014

Man shot with BB at St. Pete Pride out for justice

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CLEARWATER - Eric Bunzow is a gay man on a mission.

During St. Petersburg's gay pride event in June, the 34-year-old Wesley Chapel man was shot in the leg with a BB gun by a man making homophobic slurs, according to police. Bunzow, a computer repairman, wants the shooter to go to prison, even though Bunzow wasn't seriously injured.

"I have a huge community standing behind me now," said Bunzow. "We're not going to just let this go. No way."

Defense attorneys for the shooter, identified by St. Petersburg police as 20-year-old Cornelius Davis of St. Petersburg, are trying to keep him out of prison.

On Friday, Assistant Public Defender James Maskowitz first offered to have his client plead to the battery charge he's facing in exchange for a 120-day jail sentence; after Circuit Judge Chris Helinger balked, the lawyer came back with an offer to serve 180 days in jail.

The judge didn't accept that offer either. Among other factors, Helinger said she didn't feel she was getting the complete picture of Davis' criminal history.

The offers were made during what was essentially a bond reduction hearing. Helinger reduced Davis's bail to $10,000 and told him not to have any contact with Bunzow.

Davis is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 12. He faces a count of felony battery.

Bunzow and some friends were walking to the St. Pete Pride parade on the morning of June 29 when Bunzow was shot by a man on the second floor walkway of a motel, yelling homophobic slurs, according to a police report.

Once police tracked him down, Davis acknowledged what he had done.

"He could not believe how some of the guys were dressed," the police report says. "He stated he was primarily yelling at one unknown subject who was wearing some real tight short-shorts and a halter top."

Davis admitted he was addressing the men he saw with homophobic epithets, urging them to put on some clothes because there were children around, according to the report. He also admitted to firing a single shot from his BB gun at a group of men but said he wasn't trying to hit anyone in particular, the report states.

Outside court Friday, Bunzow said he does not believe he was the one targeted, as he was wearing jeans, a T-shirt and shoes.

Davis was arrested on a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, but the charge was reduced. Prosecutors declined to say why.

"I wasn't happy with them changing the original charge," Bunzow said.

The aggravated battery charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years, while the felony battery charge carries a maximum sentence of five years.

That's the punishment Bunzow wants now. He wasn't impressed with an apology Davis made in court Friday, nor was Helinger.

Things could have turned out much worse that morning in June, Bunzow said. He was packing a weapon himself, a Glock handgun tucked into his waistband that he said he would have used, if needed. He said he has a concealed weapons permit.

"Things could have ended very badly for him," Bunzow said.

sthompson@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-6504

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