Stanley Pannaman, a 72-year-old disabled former Marine, never thought that guarding sea turtle nests on a small town Florida beach had the potential to turn deadly. Friday evening, however, he was shot by Michael McAuliffe while doing just that.
According to the Sun Sentinel, the Vietnam veteran, his friend, Doug Young, and Young’s 12-year-old daughter were monitoring turtle nest sites when McAuliffe walked onto the beach. Thinking McAuliffe was intoxicated, Pannaman and Young attempted to avoid any encounter by moving away to another beach. The New York Daily News reports that Pannaman stated he could smell alcohol on McAuliffe’s breath 20 feet away.
Pannaman is classified as fully disabled, and walks with a cane due to his injuries from his time as a Marine. He also always carries a concealed handgun, and on Friday he had his .32 caliber Kel-Tec pistol, according to the New York Daily News.
McAuliffe followed Pannaman’s group and began cursing at them. McAuliffe then began removing the stakes and yellow tape surrounding the sea turtle nest, which Pannaman informed him was illegal. It was at that point, according to the Sun Sentinel, that McAuliffe attempted to hit Young.
“Then he started coming at me,” said Pannaman. “That’s when I pulled a handgun from the pocket of my shorts. He stopped. I thought I had diffused the situation.”
Pannaman looked down at his cell phone to call the police. McAuliffe lunged and took the gun from Pannaman, knocking him to the ground. They wrestled and McAuliffe struck Pannaman in the face and gouged his head. “I saw stars for a few minutes,” Pannaman later recounted.
“He said ‘I’ll shoot you with the flare gun’ and I said ‘it’s a real gun,'” Pannaman said. “He pointed it at my chest and in that split second I turned away from him so he would not be pointing [the gun] at my chest. If he fired into my chest I’d be a dead man.”
McAuliffe fired the gun, and the bullet entered the left side of Pannaman’s abdomen and traveled into his buttock. He told the New York Daily News that he would undergo surgery in four weeks to remove the bullet, after inflammation from the injury subsides.
“He asked me ‘are you all right?'” Pannaman said. “I looked at him and I said ‘no, I’m not all right. You just shot me.'”
Two charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and battery on a person 65 or older have been filed against McAuliffe and he is being held without bond. The Sun Sentinel reports that last year McAuliffe pleaded no contest to battery on a person older than 65, a third-degree felony. He also pleaded no contest to indecent exposure, which is a misdemeanor. In 2008, he was arrested twice for criminal mischief, and he pleaded no contest both times.