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A man accused of shooting an acquaintance during an argument at an apartment complex near Santana High School in Santee pleaded not guilty Wednesday to assault with a semiautomatic firearm and possession of an assault weapon.

Grady Alan Neel, 53, was ordered held on $100,000 bail.

The gunfire in the 9800 block of Shirley Gardens Drive was reported shortly before 11:30 a.m. Monday. Sheriff’s deputies arrived to find the suspected assailant walking through the apartment complex unarmed.

Medics took the 35-year-old victim, Christopher James Browning, to Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego for treatment of a non-life-threatening gunshot wound to his upper body.

It was unclear what prompted the shooting, which occurred during an argument between the two men in front of the suspect’s second-floor apartment. Deputies found the gun that had wounded the victim inside the residence, said sheriff’s Lt. Anthony O’Boyle.

The wounded man, believed to be a transient, has friends in the complex, where he is a frequent house guest known to “couch-surf with anyone who will allow him,” the lieutenant said. The victim and the suspect were acquaintances and had been seen together earlier in the day, the lieutenant said.

Neel faces 22 years and eight months in prison if convicted.

He will be back in court Nov. 8 for a readiness conference and Nov. 15 for a preliminary hearing.

–City News Service

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