TAMPA — A legally blind Tampa man shot and wounded an intruder Sunday night, discovering afterward that it was his 15-year-old great-nephew.
Melchisedec Williams, 50, was in his home near Chipco and N 30th streets around 10:30 p.m. when, according to Tampa police, his great-nephew cut the wires bringing power to Williams' house and broke in through a bedroom window. Inside the house, he made his way to the kitchen and grabbed two of his great-uncle's steak knives.
Williams, who is blind in his right eye from glaucoma but has some vision in his left eye, was asleep in the adjacent bedroom when he noticed the power was out, he said Monday from his front porch, where he sat in a recliner watching the line of TV trucks lengthen down the block. After hearing a window break, he reached into his dresser drawer for the handgun he kept hidden in a sock.
He called out to the intruder, using his great-nephew's name. When there was no response, Williams shot at what he could see: a shadowy figure with a flashlight.
Afterward, he heard a boy's voice groaning and recognized it as his great-nephew's.
"That's what made me stop shooting," he said. "I was in the dark, and I was ready to unload that gun until I heard his voice."
The young man was taken to Tampa General Hospital and is expected to recover.
Williams said he had taken in his great-nephew about a month ago, when the boy's mother was in jail and no other relatives volunteered to care for him. Williams said he thought he would be able to relate to the young man because he had been rebellious in his youth. But it didn't work out that way.
"The more I tried to help him, the more he had this hatred towards me," Williams said. "This boy has got a real demon inside of him. But I never imagined he would try to come in and kill me."
Williams said the likely turning point came recently, when he told his great-nephew's mother that he believed the boy was gay. It wasn't a criticism — Williams is gay — but he wanted the mother to know he had overheard flirtatious phone calls between his great-nephew and another young man.
Williams' great-nephew apparently did not appreciate the intrusion. Williams said he believes it led to the attempt on his life.
After the shooting, Williams called a neighbor from his cellphone and asked her to call 911 — he said that in the moment, he became confused about whether he needed to dial a star or an area code before 911 to summon the police from a mobile phone.
"I have no remorse for what I did," he said. "It's sad what happened, but I'm glad it happened. That way it took him off the streets and people can sleep calmer at night."
The Tampa Bay Times is not identifying the teenager because no charges have been filed. But Williams' role in the incident, and his history with law enforcement, could place him in a difficult position.
By law, Williams should not have been in possession of a gun. He has been convicted of grand theft and forgery and, in 1993, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison, state records show. Florida law bars felons from possessing guns unless their rights have been restored by the state's Clemency Board, which Williams' haven't, according to a Department of Corrections official.
But there is disagreement about whether convicted felons can use guns to protect themselves under the state's "stand your ground" self-defense law.
Last month, the Florida Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of a Palm Beach County man, a felon, who was charged with shooting a man outside a strip club in 2012. He claimed the shooting was self-defense. Both a trial and appellate court ruled he could not invoke a "stand your ground" defense because he was already a convicted felon in possession of a firearm at the time of the shooting.
But a different appellate court found in a separate case last year that there was at least one part of the "stand your ground" law that could apply even to felons.
Aaron Little killed a man who pointed a gun at him in Lee County, court records show. The 2nd District Court of Appeal determined that a section of the law "does not preclude persons who are engaged in an unlawful activity from using deadly force in self-defense when otherwise permitted."
Investigators are conferring with the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office and don't yet know whether Williams' criminal history will affect his self-defense claim, Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.
Times researcher John Martin and staff writer Peter Jamison contributed to this report, which also contains information from the News Service of Florida. Contact Anna M. Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3354. Follow @annamphillips.