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Clearwater cheerleader recovering from gunshot
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CLEARWATER – A Clearwater High School cheerleader has a unique reminder of what’s wrong with sneaking out to party – a bullet lodged in her chest.

Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies said Kristina Nielson, 15, of Clearwater, had permission from her mother to attend a slumber party with two classmates in Clearwater Sunday, Jan. 22. She didn’t have permission for what happened next.

After the parents hosting the slumber party went to bed, the three girls crept out of the house to go to a party that was already underway.

The girls were driven to the party by a friend, who hasn’t been identified. After spending some time at the party, the three girls wanted to go home, but couldn’t find a ride. One called a 20-year-old University of South Florida student she knew and asked if he would pick them up and take them home.

That young man, Jason E. Elliott, of 13504 Avalon Heights Blvd., in Tampa, had been “clubbing” with another young man, Bandaly Barbari, of Clearwater according to Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Jim Bordner.

Instead of taking the girls home, the group drove to Elliott’s parents’ home in Palm Harbor. Here, an allegedly drunken Elliott fell asleep on a living room couch while Barbari showed the girls through the house, according to police.

Bordner said that when Elliott awoke at 5:23 a.m., he took the group into his parents’ bedroom where he uncovered a loaded pistol.

“When asked to put the gun away,” Bordner said. “The suspect said it was not loaded.”

“Moments later a single shot was fired from the gun.”

Kristina Nielson was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital, Tampa, where doctors decided not to remove the bullet. She was treated and released Sunday night.

The bullet had gone through Nielson’s right arm then into her chest. Her mother, Denise Nielson, used X-ray photos Monday to show reporters the bullet’s path toward her daughter’s heart and where it was stopped by a rib.

“It feels like my body’s on fire but I’m just glad to be alive,” the cheerleader said Monday.

No charges were immediately filed in the incident. Bordner said a full report was being submitted to the State Attorney’s office to decide if anyone should be charged with a crime.

Asked if she had learned any lesson from the incident, Nielson replied with tears spewing:

“I feel so bad I put my mother through so much,” she said. “I learned don’t get into a car with someone you don’t know and don’t go to a house with someone you don’t know.”

And, to help her remember these lessons, she has the pain and a piece of lead lodged in her rib cage.
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