An Army veteran was walking outside with his girlfriend near his home in Philadelphia on Sunday when all of a sudden a man threatened the couple with a 13-inch knife. The criminal didn’t know he had several factors working against him.
Firstly, his would-be “victim,” William Lawler, 38, is an Army veteran who retired as a lieutenant after serving for over a decade. That’s strike one. Secondly, he’s a longtime firearms instructor with a license to carry a concealed 9mm Glock. That’s strike two.
However, the failed robber was the one who struck himself out by refusing to listen to the “half-dozen” warnings the veteran gave him. Lawler also immediately drew his firearm as soon as the man started cursing at him and his girlfriend, and that didn’t deter him either.
“At least a half-dozen times, I ordered him to stop,” Lawler told the Philadelphia Daily News.
He ultimately issued one final, nine-word warning: “I don't want to shoot you, but I will.”
But the seemingly clueless suspect instead walked towards the veteran and his girlfriend.
“I’ll cut you up,” he reportedly threatened.
He wouldn’t even get close as Lawler fired one round into the suspect’s groin when he got within 5 or 6 feet.
"My intent was to stop him, not kill him. I hope he's OK, and hopefully he will be prosecuted,” Lawler said.
Police later arrested and identified the suspect as Dondi DeCosta, 37. He was treated for the gunshot wound at Aria Health's Torresdale hospital, where he remained in critical condition on Wednesday, according to police.
DeCosta has an extensive rap sheet and has been arrested 21 times on charges like assault and theft. He will face yet another charge of aggravated assault and other possible charges for his run-in with the Army veteran.
After reviewing the surveillance video, law enforcement officials said Lawler tried to avoid a confrontation before he made the decision to shoot DeCosta.
"I firmly believe that in order to maintain a free society, people need to take personal safety into their own hands," Lawler told the Philadelphia Daily News. "You should walk around ready and able to protect yourself and others in your community."
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