PORT RICHEY — John and Eileen Ferdinand like going to Sioux City Steakhouse on Monday nights. It's rib night.
But as the retired couple walked back to their car about 9 p.m. this Monday, a young man emerged from the shadows with a black handgun.
"I'm sick," the gunman told the Ferdinands, "so just hand it over."
The man raised the gun toward Eileen Ferdinand, wanting the couple's wallets. Her 59-year-old husband, who received some self-defense training in the Naval Reserve a few decades ago, saw an opening.
John Ferdinand karate-chopped the gunman's arm, then pushed him back. As Ferdinand cocked his arm to throw a punch, the robber ran off.
"I just laughed at him," Ferdinand said Tuesday. "He did everything wrong."
His wife ran back into the steakhouse on Little Road, and the staff called 911. Pasco sheriff's deputies quickly responded and dispatched police dogs to search for the gunman, a tall, slender, white man in his early 20s with dark hair and a gray hooded sweatshirt.
They didn't find him.
Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said it can be difficult to gauge when victims should give in and when they should fight back. "Our typical answer is, if someone is trying to harm you, self-defense is a good thing," Doll said. "If someone is trying to steal money or property from you, you have to ask yourself whether there's anything on you that's worth being hurt or killed over."
Ferdinand, a retired mason contractor from New Jersey, knew it was a dangerous situation: "If I didn't make the right move, he could've shot my wife."
But his self-defense training gave him confidence. He could tell the robber was in a vulnerable position and could be swatted away.
"I could see my chance, and he didn't scare me," Ferdinand said. "Maybe that's what scared him."
Ferdinand said he is considering applying for a permit to carry a weapon, if that's what he needs to protect himself. And he will be more aware of his surroundings.
"We'll go back" to the steakhouse, he said. "We'll just park more out in the light."
Bridget Hall Grumet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.