CLEARWATER — Charles Place is 83 and frail. He has back problems and a bad hip. And, if he has to, he said he will kick your — well, you get the picture.
Clearwater police say Bryan Treloar learned that lesson Thursday morning when he tried to rob Place in the parking lot outside Costello's restaurant.
Instead of handing over his belongings to a man 40 years his junior, Place struggled with him and pulled out a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun.
"He was probably one surprised son of a gun," Place said.
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Don't let the cane and limp fool you, Place said.
This Clearwater senior citizen totes a gun and knows how to use it. He has carried it around for 10 or 15 years, he said.
"Now my secret's out," Place said Friday afternoon. "It needs to be a surprise."
He has a concealed firearm permit, and he said he has the gun for protection. It's scary out here, he said.
"This state is like the worst," he said. "And I'm all alone in a house with seven or eight doors."
Most mornings, he rides his three-speed bicycle to Costello's on N Fort Harrison, where he pores over the daily crossword puzzle and sips a cup of coffee, two creams and honey.
He was in the middle of his daily routine Thursday when he noticed an unkempt-looking man enter the restaurant just before 11 a.m.
Treloar, whom Clearwater police described Friday as a transient, tried to engage Place in small talk.
"I gave him short answers so he would go away, and he did not," Place said. "So I got up and left."
Place was unlocking his bicycle when, Clearwater police spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts said, Treloar walked up to Place at 11:20 a.m.
Treloar grabbed Place from behind and tried to remove his wallet, Watts said.
Place resisted and held onto Treloar's arm as they struggled. Treloar knocked Place to the ground, Watts said, and Place pulled out a .25-caliber semi-automatic handgun.
Place pointed it at Treloar and told him to get away from him, Watts said. Treloar ran.
"He showed really good judgment by walking away," Place said. "I don't want to shoot anybody."
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Police soon arrived and arrested Treloar on a charge of attempted strong-arm robbery. He was in the Pinellas County Jail on Friday in lieu of $10,000 bail.
Place was at home, fielding questions from reporters.
He sat on his porch in the same blood-stained clothes he had on Thursday. His scraped left elbow, fingers and knee were black and blue.
He said he doesn't know what possessed him to fend off Treloar.
"Instinct," he said. "I wanted his hand out of my pocket. I don't want to lose my IDs, my little bit of money. I don't like being taken advantage of."
He said he has a message for anybody else who dares to think of robbing him again.
"At your peril."
Times staff writer Andy Boyle contributed to this report. Rodney Thrash can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4167.