Michael Taschler of Lehighton owed $45 to another borough resident for drugs he bought in the past.

That debt nearly cost him his life.

Joseph Pellegrino, 42, of Kunkletown, tried to collect the money from Taschler for his friend.

Pellegrino pulled out a gun and fired it at Taschler at close range. The gun didn't go off. Pellegrino reloaded, but Taschler managed to flee without injury.

Details of the incident were revealed during a preliminary hearing held for Pellegrino before District Judge Edward Lewis last week. Pellegrino has been charged with criminal attempt criminal homicide, possession of firearm prohibited, firearms not to be carried without a license, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person.

He is being held in Carbon County Prison in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Pellegrino did not testify at the hearing.

The only testimony was from Taschler and Edward Hendershot Jr., 22, of North First Street, Lehighton.

The incident for which Pellegrino has been charged happened shortly after midnight on Oct. 4 on North First Street.

Taschler testified he did not know Pellegrino before the night the shooting attempt occurred.

He said Pellegrino approached him and asked him if he had the money. "I said no," Taschler said. "He pulled a gun."

Taschler testified, "He pointed the gun right at me and asked if I had the money, again."

Pellegrino was about seven to 10 feet from Taschler at the time, according to the testimony.

Taschler said he heard "a click" and took off, jumping onto his bicycle and riding away. He said he then heard four or five shots.

Hendershot said that Pellegrino lived in a nearby apartment. He said he knew Pellegrino for about seven years.

He said on the night of the incident, he had come home from work and Pellegrino came to his apartment.

Another friend entered his apartment via a fire escape and indicated that Taschler was arriving "to buy weed."

Because Taschler owed him $45 from a previous buy, Hendershot said he was prepared to fight Taschler.

Pellegrino insisted on meeting Taschler with Hendershot, according to the testimony.

Hendershot said that Pellegrino asked Taschler for the money, but Taschler refused to give it to him.

Pellegrino then pulled a gun. "Joey pulled the trigger but it didn't go off," said Hendershot.

Hendershot said he then heard two or three more gunshots.

According to the testimony, Pellegrino then asked Hendershot to hide the gun, but Hendershot tossed it on his bed. When police arrived, Pellegrino tossed the gun into a bag of clothing.

The arresting officer in the case is Detective Scott S. Presbysnyak of the Lehighton Police Department.

Judge Lewis bound all the charges over for Carbon County Court.