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When talk failed, out came the gun

If it hadn't been for the masked robber, the shoot-out and the police investigation, Mike Court would have completed his night deposit pretty quickly.

But the robber wouldn't listen.

Just after 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Court, a manager for an auto parts store, drove up to the night deposit slot at the Barnett Bank at 1933 E Hillsborough Ave. He had a few thousand dollars in a pouch and a .380-caliber automatic handgun in his pocket.

That's when the man appeared in a mask, with a gun and criminal intent, police said.

"Drop the money, fool," the man shouted.

Court drew his gun from his pocket and tried to reason with his assailant.

"I told him not to do it," Court said.

The man fired anyway.

Court, 31, ducked behind a pillar and fired back. It continued that way for another two or three volleys, Court said.

In the end, it was a man police identified as Samuel Thomas who lay on the ground with a bullet wound to his right calf. He was charged with attempted robbery and was being treated Wednesday night at Tampa General Hospital.

Court relieved Thomas, 25, of his weapon, made his deposit and waited for the police to arrive. Neighbors called police.

Police at the scene applauded Court's gumption even as they acknowledged the outcome might have been tragic.

"At least he evened the odds," said police Sgt. Walter Sluga.

Court, who has a wife and five children, didn't go in for any self-congratulation. Standing next to the pillar bearing the pockmark of a bullet just a few feet above head level, he said he never considered handing over the money.

"You can't think like that. If I'd given him the money, who's to say he wouldn't have shot me anyway?"