Tampa, Florida - A late-night trip to a Pasco County Walmart has now turned into a national case that could be classified as a hate crime.
At the center of it is a 24-year-old Hillsborough Community College student who lives with his family in Tampa, but spends time with his longtime girlfriend in Lutz, not too far from where the Walmart is located.
The young couple admits they are night owls.
"We were hungry that night, and there was nothing in the fridge, so we went to Walmart," said the young man, who has asked the media not to use his name. 10 News is honoring his request to protect his privacy and safety.
That night would forever change his life.
As the young man and his girlfriend were driving through the Walmart parking lot, they noticed a man staring at them and following their every move.
"I deliberately drove far away from him, on the other side of the parking lot. But, he followed us." said the student.
Then, as the couple began walking into the store located at 1575 Land O'Lakes Road in Lutz, the mystery man was right behind them.
It turns out, detectives say, that man was Daniel Quinnell, a 25-year-old with a rap sheet that includes battery. His mother says he suffers from depression and is jealous of seeing men with other women.
Quinnell began yelling at the couple using racial slurs, according to the victim, and wouldn't stop. A sheriff's spokesperson says the 25-year-old was "relentless."
"He yelled out, 'Are you Middle Eastern,' and I said 'No.' He then asked if I was Muslim, and I said 'no'," said the victim, who tells 10 News that his family hails from Trinidad. He was born in Tampa.
Then, another racial slur came quickly.
"He called me a n----r with a white woman. Then, I saw the gun," said the student. "All I saw was the barrel of the gun."
Pasco investigators say that Quinnell used a bb pistol with a CO2 cartridge, which supplies intense power for trajectory with the pellets.
"An inch in the other direction, the doctor told me, this guy could have killed me," said the victim.
"He hit me twice, above the eye and in the neck. I couldn't believe it. It was like time stood still. I couldn't believe it was happening," the young man said. "My girlfriend ran to safety. She says she doesn't remember anything, that it's all a blur."
He added, "I've always told her in situations like this not to panic or scream, to stay calm. You just never know what kind of people there are out there. I reached up to my face and there was blood everywhere."
Then, oddly enough, came the relief.
"I looked around. I wasn't dead. I didn't have any holes in my body. I was given a second chance at life," he remarked with a smile. "It went the way it should have."
Quinnell took off running and went into hiding. At that point, no one really knew who he was, and the victim gave the best description he could, albeit a vague one.
However, the break in the case came when the crime was caught on camera at the Walmart and Quinnell's picture was released by the Sheriff's Office.
"This sort of thing will not be tolerated in Pasco County," said Sheriff Chris Nocco. "We will put all of our resources into this."
And, they did.
Top-notch, longtime veteran detectives got on the case fast and began getting leads. Quinnell's mother eventually turned him in, and detectives got their man when they found him staying at a local motel in Pasco.
What Quinnell never knew at the time of the shooting is that the victim had a concealed weapons permit, and he had a .45 caliber pistol in his pocket the whole time, but never used it.
"I kept my hand on [my hip] the gun. I kept it there, but didn't take it out. Something stopped me. He has thing hatred for no reason and didn't even know me," the victim told 10 News. "No matter what he said, no matter what he called me, something told me not to use it," he said.
After the shooting, a 911 call was placed, sources say, and EMS arrived to the scene quickly to treat the student. He and his girlfriend then drove to the hospital where the victim received a CT-scan.
"My girlfriend and family have been taking good care of me," said the victim.
Thankfully, he is doing just fine, although the bb's are still lodged in his skin and are covered with band-aids for now. The victim is scheduled to have surgery on Monday at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa to remove the pellets.
"I don't wish him any harm. I just don't want him to do this to anyone else. I can't believe we have people like this in 2013," said the student. "I got a second chance at life."
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