John C. Ward survived a career of 45 relatively uneventful years at sea before retiring to his home in South Baltimore about two years ago.
Since then, he has been assaulted twice, first by a man who nearly tore off Mr. Ward's trousers trying to get his money and then Tuesday night, when a man threw him against a garage wall and demanded money.
It was during the second attempt, after Mr. Ward had left his garage in an alley in the 200 block of Parrish Street, that the 5-foot-6-inch, 120-pound Mr. Ward decided he'd had enough.
"He said, 'You got any money old man.' I said, 'Yeah, but you're not getting it,' " Mr. Ward recalled.
Mr. Ward said he then surprised his assailant by pulling a .22-caliber revolver from his pocket. The two men struggled for the gun in the alley and, according to Mr. Ward and witnesses who were later interviewed by the police, it went off. The robber was wounded.
"I begged that man to leave me alone," Mr. Ward said of his assailant. "I told him to go on down the alley. I ain't letting nobody take my money. I don't have that much."
Mr. Ward, who receives a small pension and social security benefits, said he had $75 on him when he was assaulted.
He and his wife reside on Woodyear Street about four blocks from the garage on Parrish Street, where he goes almost daily to pass the time away and "tinker" on cars that he owns.
The wounded suspect, who the police said was 32 years old, was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was reported in satisfactory condition last night, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
The police said that charges are pending against the man.
Mr. Ward has also been issued a criminal summons for a handgun violation.
"The law's the law," said Mr. Ward. "It doesn't sound right though. If I hadn't shot him he might have killed me."
It's only been two years since he retired. He said during all his years at sea, he never felt in danger. "If I wasn't so damn old," said Mr. Ward, "I'd go to sea and stay there.