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Grandmother sends robber fleeing, with her .38

Originally ran here as:
"More than burglar bargained for

Grandmother fires gun twice as robber flees her rowhouse"
By Del Quentin Wilber and Heather Lloyd, Baltimore Sun Staff
Originally published July 13, 2001

The man who broke into Mollie E. Johnson's West Baltimore rowhouse Wednesday night probably didn't count on meeting a 79-year-old grandmother packing a .38-caliber revolver.

Johnson didn't have any qualms about using the handgun, either - firing two rounds as the burglar tried to flee out a back door. "I just wanted him to suffer a little bit," she said yesterday. "He had no business being in here."

After a brief struggle, the burglar stole Johnson's gun and ran off, apparently unscathed. Baltimore police were searching yesterday for the man.

Johnson lives in a corner rowhouse - her home for 50 years, filled with a lifetime collection of knickknacks, paintings she's made and several brightly colored afghans, all crocheted by her in the past five years. She also owned a handgun, a gift from her daughter, kept hidden in an ice bucket in the corner of her dining room.

"I'm not an excitable person," Johnson said. "I'll fight, though. I'm a fighter."

As Johnson tells the story, she was getting ready for bed about 9:15 p.m. Wednesday when she heard a noise on the first floor. She walked quietly downstairs and into the dining room, where she spotted someone who had slipped through a back window, she said. "How did you get in here?" Johnson says she asked the man.

The burglar didn't respond but tried to escape out a back door - with a box containing a pair of new Nike sneakers, she said. Johnson was not going to let him get away with it. "I walked up and slapped him," she said.

The burglar then tried to run away again, and Johnson said she told him she had a gun. She then went to get it and fired at him, with one bullet going into her kitchen floor and the other ricocheting off her refrigerator, ripping a sketch done by a grandchild.

"He started screaming, 'Let me out, let me out,' " Johnson said. "That's when I shot at him."

Both shots apparently missed the burglar. "I'm glad I didn't kill him," said Johnson, who used to clean and grease her handgun while watching television and has taken target practice.

She has scuffled with attackers before. About 20 years ago, a thief tried to snatch her purse outside her house, she said. Instead of giving up her purse, Johnson grabbed the thief by the throat and threw a punch. "I dropped my groceries but kept my purse," she said.

Her son, Joseph Johnson, said he has spoken to his mother about calling police if she thinks an intruder has slipped into her house. But Johnson clearly has not always listened to her son.

"When you are confronted like that, a fight-or-flight kind of thing kicks in," said Joseph Johnson, 45, of Ellicott City.

For her, he said, "I guess fight kicks in, rather than the flight."

Baltimore police said yesterday that the case was under investigation and said they would turn their evidence over to city prosecutors.

Her daughter gave her the handgun as a gift about 10 years ago, Johnson said. Under Maryland law, she was allowed to keep the loaded weapon in her house. She did not have a concealed weapons permit that would have allowed her to carry the loaded handgun outside her home.

Johnson will also probably not face any criminal charges in the shooting, though she might have gone too far by firing at a fleeing intruder, one legal expert said.

Byron L. Warnken, a University of Baltimore law professor, said people can only shoot intruders when they believe they might be seriously harmed or killed.

Johnson apparently did not meet that standard because she was calm and the intruder was trying to flee her home when she opened fire, Warnken said.

However, Warnken said he could "not imagine" prosecutors seeking the indictment of the grandmother. "She is the good guy and an old lady," he said.

Johnson was born and raised in West Virginia and graduated from Bluefield State College with a degree in home economics before moving to Baltimore in 1945. "There was a war and I wanted work," Johnson said.

In Baltimore, she met her husband, Joseph Johnson, who died in 1968. In addition to her son, she has a daughter, Deborah Southall, a special education teacher in Alabama. Johnson worked for the Social Security Administration for "34 years and 10 months," retiring in 1982, she said.

She said she has been burglarized once before, in 1993.

After the shooting Wednesday night, Johnson went to her son's home in Ellicott City. But she didn't sleep well, she said. Last night, she was busy preparing dinner for her son - who was installing grates on her windows.

NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed, without profit, for research or educational purposes. We do our best, as well, to give credit to the original news source who published these Guns Save Lives stories out of respect and appreciation for their willingness to spread the word that Guns Save Lives -- and when an original link is available, we ALWAYS send all our visitors to read the original article on the original site where it was posted. God Bless the Americans that publish these stories - for assisting Americans in hearing the truth about guns saving lives.


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