LAKE WORTH, Fla. -- Manny Garrido liked to tinker. But the 23-year-old may have tinkered one too many times when he built his own handgun — and promptly shot himself in the leg with it.
Bored, broke and unable to drive on a license suspended after a car crash, Garrido passed time building things. Resources weren't hard to find in his father's Lake Worth backyard, where you could often hear the buzz of impact wrenches and low growl of classic cars, like dad's '87 'Vette or '84 Trans-Am.
But it was his last mechanical project that landed him in jail.
Garrido decided he needed to build a gun for protection: a one-round .40-caliber firearm made from the brass tube assembly of an air conditioner gauge, a large nut, springs and a screwdriver.
He kept the gun in his pocket. And on March 29, it went off, sending the single slug into his leg.
The wound later served as evidence for deputies, who arrested Garrido on Sunday on charges of possession of ammunition or firearms by a felon. In April 2011, Garrido pleaded guilty to felony drug charges after an incident in which authorities found prescription pills in his pocket.
Shortly after Garrido rolled into Emergency Room 1 of the JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, a staffer called police to report a shooting victim.
Detectives later found Garrido lying in a hospital bed, where he explained how he fell victim to himself.
In a conversation taped by detectives, Garrido described how he built the gun with some of the spare tools and parts in his father's yard.
"I came home and found him limping in the backyard," said Manny Pinho, Garrido's father. "He didn't want to go to the hospital — he was afraid he'd get in trouble — but I made him go."
At the hospital, investigators studied Garrido's clothing and took notes: a hole in the bottom of his left front pocket; a larger, tattered hole in his shorts, spanning two and a half inches; a half-inch hole under that hole.
Garrido's leg was also swollen and discolored, an open wound at the center of the shin, surrounded by a "speckling pattern" on the skin.
X-ray images showed the bullet lodged in Garrido's leg, near the ankle.
Detectives later learned that Garrido pleaded guilty to felony charges. Florida Law revokes the rights of convicted felons to buy guns or ammunition.
Pinho, a mechanic, gave detectives his son's homemade gun, which held a spent brass shell in its barrel.
It is unclear how Garrido learned to build the improvised gun.
But if his father had to guess? The Internet.
"It's not that hard to build a gun," Pinho said. "You just need to build something that knocks a pin into a bullet."
Firearm experts are familiar with "improvised weapons," but say it's rare to find people building them on the streets these days.
"Criminals can get a gun if they want a gun," said Ed Halley, supervisor of the Miami Field Division of theBureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "That's rare — [improvised weapons] used to be more prevalent among bikers."
Now, it's more common, Halley said, in South America, where farmers use improvised weapons to protect crops, lining their fields with trip wire rigged to a shotguns.
Anecdotally, Halley recalls finding half-made silencers in a Miami machine shop, where the makers had metal-shaping tools at their disposal.
The government classifies improvised weapons as Type 2 firearms — weapons you can't buy in stores. And improvised weapons are legal, but require extensive background checks, paperwork and hefty fees.
Most gun advocates — unless they're collectors or scientists — won't go through the trouble.
"What we have here are youngsters thinking they're James Bond," Halley said.
Garrido's father said his son found solace in fashioning the gun, just as he did building and tearing apart engines, pulling them out of the mouths of cars with chains connected to rafters of the garage.
"He was always out there building something," Pinho said. "He never went out."
Pinho said he supported his son's desire to build things. It's much like the desire he had more than three decades ago when he decided to become a mechanic.
"Who hasn't tried to building a sling shot or bow and arrow in their lives?" Pinho said. "It was an experiment that went wrong."
As of Monday, Garrido remained the Palm Beach County Jail in lieu of $7,500 bond.
"I don't believe I should have to pay to get him out," Pinho said. "He didn't hurt anyone."
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