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Shooting victim clings to life after ambush

MANATEE — A Manatee man is in critical condition after being ambushed by gunmen who shot him in the head.

The man, who is believed to be in his early 50s, is clinging to life in a St. Petersburg hospital after the 3 a.m. shooting Monday outside a home in the 4000 block of Eighth Street East, according to Manatee County Sheriff’s spokesman Randy Warren.

Warren said the victim and two other men met two women at the Cuernavaca Bar and Grill, in the 800 block of 301 Boulevard, and all five got into the victim’s car to get pizza.

One of the women told the victim she needed to stop at her home to pick up a charger for her cell phone. The victim stopped at the home on Eighth Street and both women got out of the car and went behind the home. At that point, five to six armed men ran up to the car and demanded the three men get out of the vehicle, the sheriff’s report said.

The two passengers got out of the car and had guns put to their head. The driver got out and started running as the gunmen opened fire on him. During the shooting, the two other victims got back in the car, sped off and called 911. Deputies arrived at the scene and found the driver shot in the head.

Witnesses told deputies they saw a small black pickup truck with four to five men speed out of the area, the sheriff’s report said. The suspects are described as being in their teens or early 20s. Whether the women were involved in the ambush is being investigated, Warren said, as well as the motive for the attack.

“We are looking into if the women knew the gunman and whether they were involved,” said Warren. “We can’t say yet.”

A similar attack occurred in Manatee on June 8. A Sarasota man needed medical care after being shot three times in the buttocks with a pellet gun.

In that shooting, two women led the victim behind a bar after the three agreed to get tacos, according to Warren. At about 12:30 a.m., the man followed the women behind El Paisano bar, in the 5800 block of 15th Street East, where two men jumped out of a car and a struggle ensued, according to sheriff’s report.

One of the men pulled out a pellet gun and hit the victim on the head causing a severe cut. The victim escaped and ran away, leaving his wallet behind. As the victim ran away, the man with the pellet gun opened fire. No arrests have been made in that case.

Warren said there is no indication the incidents are related, although it is not being ruled out.

“We are looking at everything right now,” he said.

Anyone with information on either shooting is asked to call the sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011 or Crimestoppers at (866) 634-TIPS.

Robert Napper, reporter, can be reached at 708-7024.