Abita Springs, LouIsiana -- Leo J. Pratts Sr. was suddenly and painfully awakened early Saturday by a young man who was beating the 93-year-old Abita Springs man with a tree branch.
It didn't take long for Pratts to size up the situation and take action.
"He acted like he wanted to beat me to death," said Pratts, a retired postal worker. "I reached under the pillow and got the pistol and
shot him -- three times, I think."
Michael Patterson, 22, of Havelock, N.C., later was pronounced dead at St. Tammany Parish Hospital. A spokesman for the coroner's office said Patterson was in town visiting relatives in the Covington area when he allegedly broke into Pratts' home. Deputies received a call from Pratts, who lives on Violet Street in the Abita Subdivision, shortly before 4 a.m. Pratts told police he had just shot Patterson, said Tiffany Tate, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman. Tate said Pratts, who was not arrested, has lived on the street for several years and has had no run-ins with law enforcement. As is normal in shooting cases, however, the information will be forwarded to the St. Tammany district attorney's office.
A day after the shooting, Pratts said he has no regrets, saying the shooting was something he had to do to stay alive.
"I felt like I was protecting myself," said Pratts, who retired from the U.S. Postal Service in 1973. "I had to." Until the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office took it away, Pratts slept every night with a .38 caliber Colt pistol under his pillow. Deputies also took a .25 caliber automatic pistol from his home, Pratts said.
He said deputies told him the weapons will be returned when the investigation is complete. Authorities have said they do not expect to book Pratts in the shooting because it appears to be a clear case of self-defense.
Tara Young can be reached at (504) 826-3795.
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