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"If I'd had a trigger lock, I'd be dead."

Originally ran here on March 14, 2001 as:
Man faces suspects accused of attacking him after getting ride
Victim had just fixed meal when he was assaulted and stabbed

By Ellen Miller, Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer

GRAND JUNCTION -- Chuck Harris, his right hand laced with stitches and his partially shaved head showing scars, came to court Tuesday to eyeball his attackers.

It was the first time he had seen them since March 1, the day he was attacked and stabbed repeatedly by young hitchhikers he had befriended.

Harris, a contractor, had picked up three young hitchhikers on his way home from work, taken them home and fixed them a steak dinner. He was preparing to offer them work when two of them attacked him, stabbing him repeatedly in the back, head and hands with knifes they had taken from Harris' kitchen.

The assault stopped when Harris said he would get them money. Instead, he grabbed a .44-Magnum pistol he kept in a desk drawer and began shooting. He shot one in the torso. The two others tried to flee in Harris' car, so he shot out two tires.

Police arrested the pair a short distance from Harris' house.

That was more than two weeks ago. Tuesday, Harris was in Mesa County Court, watching the legal process unfold.

"I plan to be here, every time," said Harris, 48, who came to court Tuesday with his mother and two of his three daughters. "I want them to get the maximum so they don't do this to anybody else."

Tuesday's proceeding set May 25 for a preliminary hearing for the accused attackers -- Richard Barbee, 25, and Colleen McLean, 18, both of Bakersfield, Calif. The third suspect, Harold Scott, is in fair condition at St. Mary's Hospital. Charges are pending his release, police say.

Barbee and McLean remain in jail, Barbee on $500,000 bail and McLean on $60,000 bail. Barbee faces 17 felony charges, including a first-degree kidnapping charge that could result in life in prison without parole. McLean is facing lesser charges.

Harris, whose right hand remains swollen and bruised, said Tuesday that he will be off work for at least six weeks because four of his tendons were severed in the attack.

"Working again is still a question," he said. "But I walked a mile today. I'm feeling stronger."

Harris said the attack took him by surprise and that he was glad his pistol was easily available.

"If I'd had a trigger lock, I'd be dead," he said. "If my pistol had been in a gun safe, I'd be dead. If the bullets were stored separate, I'd be dead. They were going to kill me."

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If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves. — Winston Churchill

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