As he walked along the sidewalk of his Far East Dallas apartment complex at 5:15 on Easter morning, a 24-year-old man heard someone call out from behind, asking him to hold up.
He turned and saw three Hispanic men, clad in identical white T-shirts, hop out of a black Toyota Corolla. They simultaneously pulled semi-automatic handguns from their waistbands and demanded everything he had, which turned out to be his car keys and the $200 pair of Air Jordans on his feet.
Three miles to the west and a half hour later, his robbers settled on a second victim: an older man who was working alone at his self-service car wash just south of White Rock Lake.
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Their M.O. this time was almost identical. The driver pulled the car to the end of the car wash's driveway, and the three men got out and approached Watson. One of them gestured toward the man's car and asked if it was his. Then, he pulled a black pistol from his waistband.
What the robbers don't seem to have realized was that the man, Charles Watson, is a retired Dallas cop. He'd been on alert since he first seen the car approaching and had watched carefully as the men walked toward him, spreading out for tactical advantage, and positioned himself accordingly.
In other words, he was ready. By the time the robber could get the gun from his waistband, Watson had drawn and had his no-longer-concealed handgun trained on him. The two accomplices, who were reaching for their guns, stopped dead.
This tableau -- a former cop holding three would-be robbers at bay in the Easter morning predawn -- lasted only for an instant. First the man who had pulled the gun, then his two friends, turned and sprinted back to the waiting Corolla, which sped away. They haven't yet been caught, though Watson may have scared them straight for the rest of the holiday at least. Police records from yesterday have no similar robbery reports.