An Army veteran warned a knife-wielding assailant that he had a gun and that he would use it if necessary, even though he didn’t want to, but the suspect tried to attack the vet and his girlfriend anyway.
William Lawler, 38, is an Army veteran, firearms instructor, former school vice principal, and current substitute teacher, was walking with his girlfriend in a Philadelphia Pathmark store when a man wielding a knife began to accost them. Lawler unholstered his gun and held it at his side to scare 37-year-old Dondi DeCosta away, but it didn’t work.
“He looked odd from the beginning,” described Lawler to Philly.com. “Nine times out of 10, all the gun owner has to do is show the firearm, and the threat goes away.”
When DeCosta didn’t go away, however, Lawler says he let him know that he didn’t want to use the gun but he would if he had to. DeCosta continued to inch towards the couple, threatening them by saying, “I’ll cut you up,” and when Lawler realized that he wasn’t going to back down, he fired once and hit DeCosta in the groin.
"At least a half-dozen times, I ordered him to stop,” said Lawler. “The last time, I said, 'I don't want to shoot you, but I will.’ Then, after I shot him, he fell to his knees and tried to throw the knife at me."
“My intent was to stop him, not kill him,” Lawler said. “I hope he's OK, and hopefully he will be prosecuted.”
Surveillance footage of the incident confirms that Lawler tried to diffuse the situation prior to it escalating.