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Chatham man, 85, fends off robber: ‘You’ve got to make a stand’

85-year-old Edward Alexander rests hospital after being shot an apparent robbery attempt while watering his lawn Thursday afternoChatham neighborhood. Friday

85-year-old Edward Alexander rests in a hospital after being shot in an apparent robbery attempt while watering his lawn Thursday afternoon in the Chatham neighborhood. Friday, August 12, 2011. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 19, 2011 2:53AM

When in Chatham, don’t mess with Edward Alexander.

The guy is tough. Old school tough.

While Alexander was watering his front lawn at 82nd and Wabash Thursday, a would-be robber pointed a gun at the 85-year-old and told him to “give it up.” Alexander knocked away the pistol and punched the man in the face, hobbling the bad guy, who ran away — but not before the pistol went off and a bullet hit Alexander in the leg.

From his hospital bed Friday, the retired probation officer of 32 years says he has no regrets.

“You’ve got to make a stand one way or the other in life,” he said from his room at Advocate Trinity Hospital. “And if you don’t you’ll be run over.”

It happened in a flash.

“This gentleman comes around 81st Street, he said, ‘Give it up,’ and put a gun to my stomach,” said Alexander, who took a swipe at the man’s gun-wielding hand.

The bullet went clean through Alexander’s left leg at around the same time he landed a blow square in the robber’s jaw.

“He stumbled and went off running,” Alexander said, noting that he didn’t immediately realize he was shot. “That’s a thing you don’t have happen often. You can’t prepare for it.”

The suspect then ran to a car parked nearby, where he and a driver fled north on the Dan Ryan Expressway, police said.

The robber didn’t get away with any cash. But neighbors say what Alexander went through is part of a broader rise in Chatham crime that has picked up over the years.

Renee Thomas-Jackson, 54, who has lived across the street from Alexander for nearly 15 years, said the influx in neighborhood crime includes an increase in armed robberies over the last year. A community alert was announced by the Chicago Police Friday night, warning citizens — especially senior citizens — to be aware of an armed suspect matching the attacker’s description.

“But we’re fighting it,” she said. “We have a community meeting on [Aug. 20] that Supt. [Garry] McCarthy will be attending.”

In the meantime, she said neighbors like Alexander, who she playfully calls the “Mrs. Kravitz of the neighborhood” — a reference to a nosy woman from the 1960s TV show “Bewitched’’ — help by watching out for the community.

“He knows everything that’s going on in the neighborhood,” she said.

According to Alexander, the man who attacked him was trying to take advantage of the largely senior population in Chatham.

Alexander was up and walking Friday morning and discharged later in the day after “one hell of an experience,” he said.

“I hope I’m prepared next time,” he joked to a friend visiting at the hospital. “Prepared to send them to the morgue.”

Contributing: Rosemary Sobol

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