TAMPA — The driver saw a man dodge across the dark road.
As a precaution, Chuckarat Ratanakarn slowed down as he headed east on Hillsborough Avenue about 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Within seconds, his Toyota Camry brushed a second man, knocking off the side-view mirror.
Ratanakarn pulled over. From his rear-view mirror, he could see the man slumped on the pavement behind him. Still in his car, he called 911. Then he walked toward the pedestrian.
"Hey, man, are you okay?" Ratanakarn, 41, asked him.
The man limped toward him.
"That's when he caught me by surprise," Ratanakarn said Wednesday afternoon. "He started attacking me."
The man punched him in the face, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said. He slammed Ratanakarn's iPhone on the ground, the 911 dispatcher still on the line.
Again and again, the man struck Ratanakarn, now on the ground.
The man demanded money. He walked toward Ratanakarn's car and sifted through it, searching for anything of value, deputies said.
Ratanakarn grabbed the man from behind. They began to fight, but then the man showed Ratanakarn the gun tucked into his waist.
"I paused a little bit," Ratanakarn said. "Somehow, I thought it was fake."
He lunged at the man again.
Moments later, the man pulled away, brandished a handgun and shot one round in the air.
Ratanakarn stood still. The man ran away into an apartment complex.
Less than a minute later, deputies arrived. They surrounded an apartment building on Newtown Circle and found the man in an apartment.
He was identified as Philip Jackson, 25, of Tampa. He confessed to the crime, deputies said.
His face and hands bloody, Ratanakarn was taken to Town & Country Hospital and released hours later.
Jackson, who was treated for minor injuries, faces charges of robbery, burglary, felony battery, discharge of a firearm in public and possessing a gun during the commission of a felony.
In Florida, Jackson has previously been arrested several times, including for marijuana possession, battery and tampering with evidence, records show.
Jackson was booked into the Hillsborough County jail, where he remained Wednesday in lieu of $19,500 bail.
Ratanakarn spent Wednesday recuperating at his Town 'N Country home. He lives there with his wife of 13 years and their two children.
Bandages covered the cuts along his eyebrows. Doctors told him the swelling on the left side of his face would last about a month.
His wife picked up the Camry from the impound. It was parked in their driveway. The side-view mirror was missing. Several scratches showed in the gray paint.
Ratanakarn said he was headed home early Wednesday after a long day at Faceless Samurai, the Palm Harbor Japanese restaurant he opened in January. He usually leaves about 11 p.m. But that night, Ratanakarn had several business errands to finish.
"It could have happened to anybody, to pass by at that particular time," he said. "It just happened to be me."
Times staff researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Laura C. Morel can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386.