72-Year-Old Ex-Marine Shot While Defending Sea Turtle Nest
07/20/2015 AT 01:00 PM EDT
"It was bizarre, for lack of another word," Stan Pannaman, who served in Vietnam, told The Sun-Sentinel of the encounter.
Pannaman and his friend, 64-year-old Doug Young, who is president of South Florida's Audobon Society, went to the beach at around 11 p.m. to wait for the turtles to hatch so that they could help them get from the nest to the ocean, WSVN reports.
But as they walked onto the beach, they were stopped by a man who got into a verbal altercation with them, saying, "I hate sea turtle people. You're all f---ing crazy," said Pannaman.
They tried to ignore him, but things escalated when the man – later identified as 38-year-old Michael McAuliffe – started pulling out the stakes that surrounded the nest.
Pannaman and Young yelled at him to stop, and that's when McAuliffe took a swing at the younger man and then charged the older one.
"He started coming at me," Pannaman told the paper. "I pulled a handgun from the pocket of my shorts."
He showed McAuliffe the gun, which only enraged him further. "He lunged at me, grabbed me and threw me down onto the sand," Pannaman said.
They rolled around on the ground before McAuliffe managed to get hold of the weapon, allegedly telling Pannaman: "I'm going to shoot you with your flare gun."
"Sir," Pannaman corrected him, "it's not a flare gun. It's a real gun."
That didn't stop McAuliffe, who fired on the 72-year-old. Thankfully, Pannaman managed to twist out of the way and the bullet only hit him in the hip. It remains lodged in his left buttock because doctors must wait for the swelling to go down before they can remove it.
McAuliffe, who's no stranger to the law, was charged with two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and battery on a person 65 or older.
Last year, the 38-year-old man pleaded no contest to battery on a person older than 65 and indecent exposure. And in 2008, he was arrested twice on charges of criminal mischief, for which he also pleaded no contest. All charges are alleged.
Pannaman, who's recovering at his Tamarac home, will continue his work protecting the turtles, though he asserts, "but really, monitoring sea turtle nests should not be a life-threatening experience."
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