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Michael Korf
Evan Vernadakis, 19, poses in a photo shared by his father. / Special to news-press.com

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A Cape Coral man accused of accidentally shooting and paralyzing his friend while drunk at a New Year’s Eve party lied to police and refused to take the friend to the hospital for 16 hours, according to an arrest warrant released Thursday.

Michael Korf, 20, is accused of shooting Evan Vernadakis, 19. Police said the bullet ripped through Vernadakis’ lung and spinal cord.

A warrant was approved April 25, and Korf turned himself in this week. He is charged with using a gun while under the influence of alcohol, firing a gun into a dwelling and culpable negligence, a felony charge punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The other two charges are misdemeanors.

According to the warrant:

Vernadakis told police he was at a party hosted by Korf, his friend of five years, around 1 a.m. Jan. 1 when he saw Korf with a revolver he inherited from his grandfather.

Vernadakis, who admitted he and Korf were intoxicated, said he asked Korf what he was doing with the gun and Korf pointed it at him and laughed. “You won’t shoot me,” Vernadakis said.

“Michael then shot Evan in the chest,” the warrant reads. “Evan reported that Michael began apologizing and told him that he didn’t mean to do it.”

Vernadakis asked to be taken to the hospital, but Korf didn’t want to get in trouble. Korf also told Vernadakis he wasn’t bleeding anymore and would be OK before putting him on the couch to sleep for the night.

In the morning, Vernadakis tried to get up but couldn’t walk and fell to the floor. He asked Korf — as well as Korf’s girlfriend, Gabrielle Gattuso, and her brother, Frank — to drive him to the hospital but they refused. Korf instead placed Vernadakis in a bathtub for several hours and told him he would be fine.

Vernadakis said he continued to plead to be taken to the hospital, and Gattuso eventually convinced Korf to do so. Korf only agreed, however, after Vernadakis promised not to tell anyone Korf shot him.

He was dropped off at Cape Coral Hospital around 4:45 p.m. — about 16 hours after the shooting — by Korf, Gattuso and her brother. They put him in a wheelchair, pushed him to the lobby and left.

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He was then rushed to Lee Memorial Hospital when staff realized he had been shot. A trauma surgeon said Vernadakis’ lung injury may not have been as severe if he had received immediate medical attention.

Police said Vernadakis initially declined to tell police or his parents what happened. Officers then interviewed Korf and Gattuso, who gave different versions of the story.

Korf said they received a call from Vernadakis asking to be picked up and claimed they found him with a gunshot wound on Burnt Store Road. Gattuso, meanwhile, claimed they picked him up at an apartment complex in Fort Myers.

“Michael and Gabrielle’s false statements directly (misled) and obstructed this lawful investigation,” the warrant states. “Any opportunity to gather forensic evidence or the firearm used in the crime was lost due to these intentional deceiving acts.”

Cape police spokesman Lt. Tony Sizemore said he didn’t know if charges are pending against Gattuso, who couldn’t be reached for comment. Police said Gattuso and her brother have refused to cooperate with the investigation.

Vernadakis told police he didn’t believe Korf shot him intentionally. He remained in the hospital until Feb. 18, when he was transferred to a rehabilitation facility. He has since gone home.

His father said Wednesday his son can’t feel from his chest down and will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

Korf referred comment to his lawyer, who didn’t respond to a message left with his office on Thursday.

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