TARPON SPRINGS, Florida - Brad Perez doesn't think of himself as a hero, but those who hear his story disagree. They say he is a brave young man who looked death in the face and lived to tell about it.
The 19-year-old saved a life, and he has the bullet wounds to prove it.
Perez took a bullet for a friend last Saturday night in Tarpon Springs when the two were ambushed.
Perez was walking to the store for his mother, since the alternator is out on his car. The teen works hard helping elderly patients with physical rehab in Clearwater, a job he loves.
On Saturday night around 9:30 p.m., Perez and his friend walked to a store on the corner of Walton and Tarpon Avenue. When they left the store, a man beckoned to them.
"He seemed fishy," said Perez. "He waved at me to come to a dark area. I knew not to go. That's when it happened."
The "it" that the teen is talking about was a gunshot, and Perez was the target.
"It felt like it wasn't real. I thought it was a fake gun. Then, I felt the burn of the gunpowder and smelled it. I felt the burn later on," Perez said.
Perez was shot on the left side of the chest. The bullet ripped into his torso, a clean wound through and through. Two holes, one in and one out. If the bullet went in just an inch in the other direction, it could have killed him. Hospital staffers kept telling Perez how lucky he was. But, he admits he was in severe pain from the gunshot wounds when he first arrived.
"They stuck a Q-tip through it," Perez said. "Man, that hurt!"
After Perez was shot, he dropped to the ground and lay in a pool of blood. There was one call he made right away.
He called his mother.
"I told her I wasn't sure if I was shot or stabbed. Then, the pain got worse and I hung up the phone," Perez told 10 News.
Perez describes the shooter as a small Hispanic man wearing a hoodie. And, that man made a major mistake -- he left his cell phone at the crime scene. In fact, his friend used it to call 911. Now, cops are using that phone to track the shooter.
"We've got some good leads," said Captain Young from the Tarpon Springs Police Department.
Perez was airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center, where he stayed for just one day. The teen was especially thankful for his longtime good friend from Bartow, Jose Vasquez, who not only made the drive to visit him in St. Pete, but also brought him home.
As for the teen's mother, she prayed and prayed that her son would live. She even crossed the police line to get to him.
"I don't care how old he is," Regina Borglund said. "He's still my boy. I pray each day for my family. I give God the glory, he answered my prayers."
She especially thanked her pastor for helping her get through this incident. Borglund had to go to the hospital herself after her nerves got the better of her. She thought she would lose her son. Now, she is rejoicing that he is alive.
"I'm very proud of him. All I could think is that I had to get to him. He's my boy," she said with a smile.
The shooter is still out there. If you have any details about this case, please call Tarpon Springs Police.