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St. Pete homeowner ends ordeal with a shot in the dark at armed robber

ST. PETERSBURG — Hall Palmer hadn't fired his late father's antique gun in 40 years. He's glad it worked Monday morning.

With any luck, the slug from the .38 Colt Army Special sent a signal to the masked gunman who crept into his Snell Isle home early Monday.

Don't come back.

"I was sort of hoping that some of it went into him," said Palmer, 70.

The bullet, which he bought in 1986, ricocheted off the Spanish tile in Palmer's foyer. He fired while looking down on the masked thief from a second-floor stairway landing. There was no bloody trail as the intruder fled.

The single shot ended a tense and terrifying encounter with a gunman who was soft-spoken and chatty, but made it clear he intended harm.

It was about 5:30 a.m. when Palmer, a retired banker, heard a noise in his home on the 500 block of Snell Isle Boulevard NE. His wife, Winifred, was asleep in the master bedroom next to a spare bedroom where Palmer was resting.

It was dark, but when he opened the door to investigate, a person about 5-foot-10 and clad in all black was standing inches away from him, pointing a shiny pistol.

He backed Palmer into the bedroom and told him to sit on the bed and be quiet. He wanted the PIN for a bank card he'd found downstairs. Palmer told him that card was out of date and offered to retrieve his billfold instead, so they went downstairs to look for it. The gunman bound Palmer's hands with twine.

Palmer said his unwanted guest was something of a conversationalist. He told Palmer, an Air Force veteran, that he was an Army veteran. He asked about his wife's clay cast sculptures in the garage.

He told him he'd take care not to cut him when he replaced the twine with packaging tape from the broom closet. He used no profanity. He mentioned he didn't want to wake Palmer's wife.

Even his threats were spoken calmly, such as when he asked Palmer if the PIN he gave him was correct.

"If it isn't, I'm going to come back and I'm going to punish you," the gunman said.

The gunman left Palmer sitting in the bathroom, his hands and feet bound and his mouth gagged. The robber went into the garage, climbed into Palmer's 2001 Buick Park Avenue and started the car. That's when Palmer wriggled free and ran upstairs for his heirloom revolver.

As he made his way upstairs, he heard the engine shut off. He got the gun, which he keeps loaded, from a dresser.

The gunman appeared in the foyer below just as Palmer arrived at the stairway landing. He aimed over the railing and fired. The robber fled through the garage after the shot rang out.

Palmer later learned that the gunman was carrying a pillow he found in the garage at the time he shot at him. Palmer wonders if he intended to use it to muffle the blast of his gun.

Police are investigating the home invasion. No suspects have been announced.

Everything was so dark that Palmer couldn't even tell the robber's skin color. On the other hand, he's glad the unwanted visitor didn't get a good look of him.

Palmer and his wife say they are shopping for an alarm system and are considering adding a German shepherd to the family.

"I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate," Palmer said.

Not one to take a chance, he's adding another gun to his arsenal.

It won't be an antique.

Luis Perez can be reached at or (727) 892-2271.

Got a crime tip?

Anyone with information about this robbery can call St. Petersburg police at (727) 892-5000.

St. Pete homeowner ends ordeal with a shot in the dark at armed robber 01/19/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 20, 2011 11:13am]
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