Saturday, October 17, 2020

A Lady and Her Ruger

“Don’t come in my house. I have a gun.”

Written by Robert A. Waters

On February 16, 2017, the weather in St. Petersburg, Florida was 66 degrees and cloudy. Mary Shirley opened a window in her bedroom, thankful for the cool air.

The sixty-seven-year-old widow sat at her computer watching the local news. The digital clock in her two-bedroom bungalow on 24th Avenue South displayed exactly 6:13 a.m. when Shirley heard a slight rustling outside. She thought little of it, however, since homeless people often scavenged through her trash cans. Neighbors in surrounding homes had often complained to police about the trespassers, but no arrests were made.

Years earlier, Shirley’s husband had purchased a 6-shot Ruger .357 Magnum revolver. He taught her to fire the gun and emphasized that it was for protection. Shirley kept the loaded pistol in a drawer near her computer.

In a police report, detectives wrote that “[Shirley] continued to hear the noises and then it sounded like her window was opening in the living room. Shirley stated she moved into the living room and observed a subject’s right foot entering through the window as if stepping inside the house.”

She yelled at the intruder, later identified as Timothy Scott Tugman (pictured above). “You’d better go,” she said. “I’m gonna get my gun and shoot you.”

Shirley hurried into her bedroom. She fought the panic gripping her, reached into the dresser drawer, and retrieved her pistol. The detective wrote: “[Shirley] came back into the living room and saw the subject still attempting to enter the house through the back window. She stated his right foot was almost on the floor.”

The widow again yelled at Tugman: “Don’t come in my house. I have a gun.”

When he continued trying to enter her home, Shirley fired. The first bullet struck the wall beneath the window. Tugman ignored the gunshot and yelled, “Open the door!” Shirley fired again, this time hitting him in the side. The intruder fell from the window and sprinted away.

Shirley called 911. When officers arrived, she told them she had been in fear for her life because she did not recognize the intruder. A detective wrote that “Ms. Shirley, a 67-year-old petite female, was very pleasant and inviting. She was visibly shaken and had a blanket wrapped around both her legs, with a black bonnet covering her hair.”

Realizing that the suspect was likely nearby, officers began searching the neighborhood. They found him a block away, lying on the sidewalk in a pool of blood. Tugman was transported by ambulance to Bayfront Hospital in St. Petersburg. There, physicians reported that the bullet had exited through his lower back. After treatment, Tugman would recover. 

St. Petersburg Police Department spokesman Rick Shaw told reporters that the intruder was attempting to raise the window in order to enter the residence. “She does not know the man,” Shaw said. “She’s never seen him before.”

Detectives determined that he was a heavy user of “spice,” a synthetic marijuana derivative that has been responsible for mental health problems. Tugman, never quite able to comply with societal norms, had a long rap sheet. He’d been arrested numerous times for crimes such as obtaining property by stolen check; worthless checks; and obtaining property fraudulently. In 2014, Tugman pled guilty to drug charges in Pinellas County, and had numerous charges in surrounding counties. While he had no violent crimes on his record, the fact that he would knowingly enter an occupied home without permission proved his dangerousness.

Tugman was tried for Occupied Residential Burglary, convicted and sentenced to two years in prison.

Mary Shirley was not charged with any crime. She summarized her feelings when speaking to Jennifer Titus, 10 News in Tampa: “I was watching [the] news trying to end the stress out, you know. Then I heard my window coming up…I saw this foot hanging in my window and I’m telling this young man, ‘I’m gonna get my gun now, I’m going to get my gun’ and he proceeded to come in so what do you do when you get your gun. You shoot. The first shot missed him, I guess, but the second shot hit him in the stomach.”

Without a gun, Mary Shirley would have been at the mercy of Tugman. With his addiction and mental health issues, mercy is likely to have been the last thing on Tugman’s mind.

Robert A. Waters is the author of Guns and Self-Defense with co-author Sim Waters. For 25 years, Waters has researched defensive shootings and written about hundreds of such cases. He has penned four books describing in detail many legitimate self-defense exploits. In addition, he has chronicled numerous self-defense cases on his blog, Kidnapping, Murder and Mayhem.

1 comment:

Foster Coker said...

Another great piece, Robert!