MANATEE -- "I love you! I love you! Fight! Please fight! Fight!"
Those were phrases Gail Mays heard amid loud, frantic screams and cries coming from her next-door neighbor, Kyle Guessford, at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
What she didn't know until a few minutes later was the 22-year-old Guessford was pleading with his roommate, Austin Brunson, also 22, not to die from a bullet to the head from Guessford's gun in the apartment next to Mays' at 30 West, 2785 50th Ave. W.
Authorities say the shooting death appears accidental.
Guessford had been in his room checking out several pistol accessories he had just purchased, according to a Manatee County Sheriff's Office report.
As Guessford entered the living room with gun in hand, he reportedly switched the weapon-mounted flashlight on and the firearm discharged.
"This was a terrible, terrible tragedy," a shaken Mays said Sunday. "There was no foul play here. It was a senseless accident."
Mays was in the back room of her apartment at 8:30 p.m. when she heard an explosion.
"It was a boom and the walls shook," Mays said. "I yelled out to my husband: 'Walter, Walter, what is that?"
Seconds later, the door of the apartment Guessford and Brunson shared flew
open and Gail Mays said she could hear Guessford and another young man on cell phones, calling 911 and screaming and crying at the same time. Two visitors were reportedly in the apartment at the time with Guessford and Brunson.
"They were out of their minds," Mays said of the survivors. "They were also talking to Austin. They were telling him to hang on."
Deputies raced to the scene along with paramedics who reportedly pronounced Brunson dead.
"Austin's brother was among those in the apartment and he came out and told me: 'He didn't make it,' " Mays said.
Deputies reported there was no fighting or arguing prior to the shooting,
The Mays were deeply saddened to lose Brunson, who they said was a perfect neighbor.
"Both Austin and Kyle are very nice," Mays said. "These are 22-year-olds who are considerate about their neighbors and don't throw wild parties. In fact, Austin was my alarm clock. Every morning at 6:30 a.m. he started up that red Ford truck out there and the lights woke me up. Austin worked with his dad, who is an electrician, and was always on time. Austin's dad once told me the only reason he hasn't retired is Austin. Austin was his inspiration and motivation to keep working."
Walter Mays, who served his country in Vietnam, said Brunson reminded him of guitarist Jimmy Hendrix.
"Austin was a good kid," Walter Mays said. "That Ford truck was the first one he bought. He invited me into his home and I was amazed to see a circle of guitars in his living room, just like Jimmy Hendrix. Austin loved the guitar. He played beautifully. I think he once played in church."
The sheriff's office will continue the investigation.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 951-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.