Marine veteran disarms gunman

Marine combat training may have saved a Charleston County man's life when a would-be robber stuck a gun in his face this week.

Tony Morris, a 45-year-old tow-truck driver, managed to disarm the man in his front yard off Ashley Phosphate Road Monday night.

He says his reaction was instinctive, but he only did it because he was sure the guy was going to shoot him even if he had turned over his money.

"The look in the guy's eyes, I was going to get shot whether I gave him my money or not," said Morris, a Desert Storm veteran. "I had nothing to lose. It's dumb to try it, but in that situation, with his demeanor, I did not think I had a choice. It was either stand there and get shot or get shot trying to get away or take the gun from him."

It all started about 11:30 p.m. Monday when Morris stopped at the Kangaroo gas station on Ashley Phosphate Road on his way home. He paid with a $100 bill, then noticed two men behind him eyeing the rest of the money in his wallet. The two men walked out without making a purchase.

Morris, his wife, Lara, and their 23-year-old son pulled into his yard and a white SUV also pulled up. Morris recognized the man who stepped out as one of the men from the convenience store. He appeared to be in his early 20s, dark-skinned, about 6 feet tall, medium build - with shiny gold teeth.

The man started off by asking Morris directions to Moncks Corner. After Morris explained, the guy wanted to know how to get to Orangeburg. Eventually Morris turned and started toward the house to join his wife and son.

That's when the man pulled out a .38-Special revolver, stuck it in his face and said, "Give me everything you've got or I'll shoot you."

Morris said he felt more angry than afraid.

"I spent eight months in Iraq during Desert Storm," Morris said. "The gun didn't scare me. When I thought this guy was going to shoot me, it made me mad."

He said he swiped the gun out of his face, and the guy hit him in the back of the head with it. Morris lunged forward, tackled him to the ground and managed to get the gun away. The man got up and took off running toward the SUV.

By this time, Morris' wife and son had come back outside to see what was happening.

"They thought he was an easy target," Lara Morris said. "They didn't know who they were messing with."

The robber couldn't run very well because his pants kept coming down, she said.

"He obviously didn't put much thought into this," she said. "He took off running and falling. When he got to the SUV, he actually fell to the ground because his pants were down around his knees."

Morris said he was afraid the robber was going back to get another gun, or the driver had a gun. He fired two shots into the rear of the SUV as it took off. Then he dropped the gun on the ground.

Investigators ran the serial number and found the gun had been reported stolen in Varnville in January 2011, according to the report from the Charleston County Sheriff's Office.

The robber also lost a shoe and his watch during the struggle. Deputies took them as evidence when they arrived on the scene.

Morris said he wanted to publicize the incident because it might help deputies capture the suspects before they hit somebody else.

"This stuff is senseless," he said. "If I can do something to help stop it, then I'd like to try."

He also urged others not to follow his example when facing a gun.

"Please stress that what I did was stupid and I don't advise anybody else to do that," he said. "I'm in no way advocating disarming somebody like that. I just didn't believe I had a choice."

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.