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Video: 72-year-old beats up pickpocket...

TODAY contributor
updated 7/5/2007 11:46:22 AM ET 2007-07-05T15:46:22

At 72 years young, Bill Barnes still has a firm handshake, plays golf regularly and doesn’t stand for nonsense — from anyone. Just ask the much-younger man who allegedly tried to pick Barnes’ pocket while the ex-Marine was examining his losing $2 lottery ticket last month.

Barnes pummeled the man, surprising himself, the convenience-store clerk who jumped into the fray, and even the police officers who later watched the incident on the store’s surveillance system.

“I just didn’t want to get in trouble with my wife for someone taking my money,” Barnes said Thursday during an interview on TODAY.

The trouble that has earned Barnes’ a new nickname, “Rocky,” began about 9 a.m. on June 22 at The Next Door Store convenience store outside Grand Rapids, Mich. Barnes had just withdrawn $300 from an ATM for his wife and was focused on his lottery ticket when he felt movement in the front pocket of his shorts.

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Without hesitation, Barnes wheeled around, and grabbed the hand of the man trying to get his money.

Then the punches started flying.

Not just an ‘old man’
With all of the agility and much of the power of a younger man, Barnes delivered blow after blow to the man’s head and side before the store clerk managed to get around the counter and lend a hand.

“I reached around. I grabbed his left hand and just started punching him,” Barnes told TODAY’s Lester Holt. “It was just a reaction. He never said nothing; just kept on trying to pull the money out of my pocket.”

The suspect, 27-year-old Jesse Rae, who was charged with assault and attempted robbery, could not have known that Barnes, as a young man, was in the Marines and a Golden Gloves boxer.

“He thought I was an old man, probably,” Barnes surmised. “I wasn’t going to let him get away with it.”

Score one for the good guys.

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