Walter Santiago was driving through Wesley Chapel, Florida, with his granddaughter when he felt a foreign object ricochet off his forehead, above his left eye. Santiago’s 13-year old granddaughter, Jesenia Morales, screamed out, “Grandpa, you’ve been shot!” A stray bullet had flown through the driver side window, and then grazed Santiago's head.
The 62-year-old Tampa man told Bay News 9, "I saw something really quick brush by me and I saw the windshield is cracked and it all just happened really fast.” Jesenia called 911 and her grandfather exited the car. He explained to WFTS ABC Action News , “I got out of the car and just moved away from the car, I figured if they’re shooting at me, I don’t want them to shoot at my granddaughter.”
Residents in the area said that they heard gunshots leading up to Santiago’s shooting. Officers from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office believe that Santiago was not the target, but the .40 caliber bullet was most likely fired from a distance and was losing speed when it struck.
According to an account by Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Doug Tobin, the Orlando Sentinel wrote, “The bullet came through the window on a downward trajectory, Tobin said, hitting the the [sic] car's seat near Santiago's right thigh after bouncing off his head. The bullet then bounced up, cracking the front windshield and coming to rest on the passenger's side floor board.” Fortunately Jesenia was uninjured.
Santiago was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa and received a CT scan, and six stitches to close the wound. The bullet did not penetrate his skull and the grandfather was released a few hours later. Santiago knows that he is lucky telling Bay News 9, “I mean, how many people get shot in the head like that and you know live to tell about it?"
While he feels fortunate, he’s still angry that the incident happened at all. The stray bullet survivor told the Orlando Sentinel he believes that someone may have been shooting at an animal and didn’t realize how far the shot would travel. "Just someone being stupid…If you want to kill someone, you'd get a lot closer. I don't think careless is the word. Just stupid and ignorant," said Santiago. "I certainly hope they catch somebody…If he continues doing it, he's certainly going to wind up killing somebody."
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case. No arrests have been made and they encourage anyone with information to contact them anonymously at (800) 706-2488.