When Walter Santiago heard the bang and felt a pain on the side of his head while driving in Wesley Chapel, he figured something had broken off his car and flown in through the open driver’s side window.
His granddaughter looked at the blood streaming from his temple and knew different.
You’ve been shot, she said.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said a bullet, probably fired from far away, came through the window and glanced off the 62-year-old Wesley Chapel man’s head just above his left temple.
“Fortunately for me the bullet was losing velocity when it hit me,” Santiago said. “I feel very fortunate and very angry that this happened.”
Santiago was on the road at the time because he had just picked up his sick 13-year-old granddaughter from middle school. He was driving east on State Road 54 near Bruce Lane with the window cracked open 4 or 5 inches when he was hit by the bullet at about 12:15 p.m..
He received six stitches at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa.
Pasco County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Doug Tobin said the shot must have been fired far away because the bullet glanced off Santiago’s head and bounced around after entering the car.
The bullet came through the window on a downward trajectory, Tobin said, hitting the the 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, he said.
“It really is a case of unbelievable luck on the part of the driver,” Tobin said.
The bullet came from a high-caliber handgun, Tobin said. Santiago said it was a .40 caliber bullet.
Neighbors told investigators that they heard three shots at about the time he was hit, Santiago said.
Tobin said it doesn’t appear Santiago was a target.
No one has been arrested. Anyone with information can anonymously call (800) 706-2488.
“He’s very lucky,” Tobin said. “Depending on where it hits him, it could kill him.”
After returning home from the hospital, Santiago said, he had a headache and felt tired. He lost a lot of blood after he was shot and has a lump on his head, he said.
Santiago said he’s never been in a similar incident.
“I’ve lived in New York City, Connecticut and Puerto Rico,” said Santiago, who is retired. “Nothing like this has ever happened. I don’t have any enemies that I know.”
He thinks someone was shooting at squirrel or other animal and didn’t realize how far the bullet might travel.
“Just someone being stupid,” Santiago said. “If you want to kill someone, you’d get a lot closer. I don’t think careless is the word. Just stupid and ignorant.’’
He’d like to see someone arrested.
“I certainly hope they catch somebody,” Santiago said. “If he continues doing it, he’s certainly going to wind up killing somebody.”