Alvin "Captain" Ray, 72, says the experience he got as a private detective years ago served him well when he gunned down one of two men who tried to rob him Monday afternoon.
The owner of Duke and Ray's, a liquor and grocery store in the 1400 block of Edmondson Ave., says he had to react quickly while in danger and under pressure, a situation common to a private detective and a store owner in a tough neighborhood.
In a dimly lighted back room of the store yesterday, Ray talked calmly about the attempted robbery, during which a handgun was pointed at his face.
Ray turned the tables on the robbers, pulled the .357-caliber Magnum from the holster on his hip and fatally shot one robber. He may have wounded the other.
Ray said he has no regrets about the fatal shooting and, if he had to, he'd do it again. "I feel I did what I had to do," he said. "It was my life or his life."
Continuing, Ray said, "I don't feel any remorse for saving my life. I'm sure he would have shot me. . . ."
He said the attempted robbery was the first in the 25 years he has owned the store.
There was nothing out of the ordinary Monday afternoon, Ray recalled. "Two customers came in and asked for a six pack of Weidemann. I said, 'I don't have any.'
"They said, 'What kind do you have?' I said National."
"Give me National," one customer said, as Ray recalled it.
"I went to the box to get a six-pack of National and when I turned around, he had a gun in my face. I gave him the six-pack and dropped to the floor.
"When I came up, I came up shooting," Ray said.
"I think I hit him twice in the chest. He dropped the six-pack and broke the counter."
The man, fatally wounded, ran outside and collapsed on a sidewalk directly across the street from the store. The other man fell to the floor after his accomplice was shot, then ran out the door. Ray fired at him.
Police said the dead man, Louis Easter, 25, of the 1800 block of W. Baltimore St., had been shot once in the upper left chest.
The other man, who police believe may be wounded, fled north on Calhoun Street. He remains at large, police said.
Homicide detective Richard James said the shooting was "justifiable homicide" and said Ray, who acted in self-defense, will not be charged.
Ray carries with him the permit for his handgun and a badge from his days as a private detective and co-owner of Able Detective Agency on Pimlico Road.
The detective agency, which supplied protective services to churches and shopping centers and occasionally investigated criminal matters, operated for about 15 years, Ray said. The name "Captain" came from his years as a detective.
Soon after the agency closed, Ray opened the liquor store -- and continued carrying the gun.
"It's as necessary in this business as in the other business," he said.
His training as a detective helped him react to the attempted robbery, said Ray, who has been married for 48 years and is a father and grandfather.
Ray said that, despite the incident, he plans to continue operating the store, which, he says, serves a need in the community.
The community must agree.
Yesterday he received dozens of phone calls, he said, and people came into the store to offer their best wishes.
Some residents said that, although crime is rampant in the area, they were stunned that Ray was targeted because he's popular in the neighborhood.
"It was sad . . . that they would try and rob him around Christmas," said Janice Edwards, 29. "They must have been from outside the neighborhood. Nobody around here would try to hurt him and take something from him."