MANCHESTER — A 65-year-old grandmother said she didn’t have time to think when she pulled out her .32-caliber handgun and shot a man who tried to mug her outside her south Manchester apartment building late Monday night.
The woman, who recounted the incident to news media Tuesday, said she had a funny feeling once a dark-colored car started following her car as she pulled away from the Mobil on the Run and headed home to 640 South Porter St., a three-story, garden-style apartment building.
She had just gotten off work as a poker dealer. It was about 11:30 p.m. As she made her way to the building, she said a man exited the car, ran ahead of her and blocked her path.
“As soon as he went to grab me with his left hand, I pulled (the gun) out and shot him. I didn’t even think about it. I thought my safety was in danger,” said the woman, who asked that her name or image not be publicized.
“I’m not happy about what happened. I wish I didn’t have to do it, but my safety was my first priority.”
Manchester police said they have charged Michael Bontaites, 23, who has no fixed address, with robbery after he showed up at Elliot Hospital emergency room with a gunshot wound to his upper chest. Bontaites was arraigned from his hospital bed, and his bail was set at $5,000.
Police also charged the friend who took Bontaites to the emergency room — Zachary Boyd, 30, of 326 Amherst St. — with being a felon in possession of a knife.
The victim was the center of attention on Tuesday. She spoke to reporters from New Hampshire and Massachusetts in her apartment building’s stairway.
Earlier, she took calls from Mayor Ted Gatsas and Police Chief Nick Willard. She said Willard asked if she felt OK being unarmed because police took her weapon for evidence. Not to worry, she told him, her neighbor had lent her one of his.
Gatsas said he had met the woman — an avid bingo player — while campaigning.
“I told her ‘I’m glad you protected yourself,’” Gatsas said. “People who have the opportunity to protect themselves should.”
The incident took place about 12 hours before President Obama addressed the nation about his crackdown on gun purchases.
“Honestly, I do not have a problem with background checks. Anything else he’s trying to do, forget it. He’ll never take our guns away,” said the woman. Police said she had the proper license to carry a concealed weapon.
The woman wore jeans with a small peace symbol sewed just above her right knee. She wore a fleece hat with hearts on it and two crosses around her neck.
“I’m a child of the 60s,” she said.
Last year, she testified in Concord in favor of legalized gambling. She lives alone with two cats. She has two grown sons, and her first grandson was born in November.
A weird feeling
The woman said she had a weird feeling and she relied on her instincts when the car started following hers Monday night.
“I felt from the beginning they were druggies,” she said.
Bontaites is 5 foot, 11 inches, and 200 pounds. The woman — 4 foot, 11 inches and 105 pounds — said she didn’t pull her gun until the mugger tried to grab her purse.
“I don’t think he got that far,” she answered when asked if he touched her. “I shot to protect myself. If I wanted to kill him, I would have aimed for the head,” she said.
Her handgun is a .32-caliber Kel-Tec, and Monday was the first time she ever fired it, she said. She said she last shot a gun at the old Manchester police station as part of a safety class.
Neighbors said the apartment complex is close to South Willow Street, and they have found syringes on the property and cars have been burglarized. But the woman said in the 12 years she’s lived there, no shooting has ever taken place.
She lives across the hall from Izzy Falcone. Falcone was wearing a holstered handgun on Tuesday. He had lent the woman a gun until police return his neighbor’s.
He said he makes a living building weapons for the military, and this summer he and a friend stood guard at a military recruiting station in Manchester after a terrorist shot and killed recruiters in Chattanooga, Tenn.
He said he was asleep when the shooting took place. “The first thing I said was, ‘Why didn’t you kill him?’” Falcone said.