ST. PETERSBURG — Eighteen months ago, after a pit bull attacked him while he was walking his two Yorkshire terriers, Allen Coates swore such a thing would never happen again.
History could have repeated itself Sunday afternoon but for one thing, Coates said: the gun he now carries whenever he walks his dogs.
This time, the 67-year-old Brit, who sells continuing-education programs to the construction industry, was carrying a Ruger LCP .380, a handgun so small it fits into the palm of most people's hands. Coates had his gun in the front right pocket of his shorts.
Coates was walking his Yorkies, Joey and Tiki, about 3:30 p.m. in his neighborhood, which is where he was attacked in 2011.
Then a neighbor's dog came charging at them, according to Coates and police.
A couple of people were chasing the dog down an alley in the 2700 block of Eighth Avenue North, Coates said. As the canine approached "snarling at 20 mph" Coates said, he pulled the gun out of his pocket and pulled the trigger.
But the gun didn't fire. So Coates reloaded and fired again, managing only to wing the dog because it was charging so fast, he said.
The dog charged again, and Coates fired again, hitting the dog twice. One bullet hit the dog in its upper back and passed out its chest, police said. Another bullet lodged in his spine. The dog was later euthanized.
"It came back, so I shot and killed it," Coates said.
The owner of the dog, Andres Osorio-Rodriguez, tells a different story. He was home, at 2620 Ninth Ave. N., when his dog, Bruno, an American bulldog and hound mix, escaped through an open garage door. Osorio-Rodriguez's sister and her boyfriend, Chad Simmons, chased the animal down the alley.
Osorio-Rodriguez said his sister told him Bruno never growled and had no intention of attacking. Bruno just wanted to play with the Yorkies the same way he played with two Shih-Tzus, another small breed, at home.
His sister and Simmons told Coates that Bruno wasn't going to hurt him, Osorio-Rodriguez said.
"My dog would not even attack a fly," Osorio-Rodriguez said.
Bruno didn't charge Coates and the Yorkies head-on, Simmons said. He was running around in a playful mood at one point running past Coates and the Yorkies before running back to Simmons and his girlfriend.
After the shooting, Simmons, Osorio-Rodriguez and his sister told Coates the dog "was just being friendly," but Coates saw things differently.
"I said, 'No, he was trying to kill my Yorkies,'" Coates said.
Then Coates said he pointed his firearm in the air and laid it on the ground when police arrived.
In the 2011 attack, the pit bull mauled Joey and bit Coates in the hand. Coates had to get a tetanus shot, and Joey still can't put his hind leg completely on the ground for too long.
After that, the former British soldier got a concealed weapons permit and started carrying a gun on walks.
"I said to myself, 'Nothing's going to happen to my dog the second time,' and it didn't," Coates said.
Because he feared for his safety and that of his dogs, Coates won't be charged with a crime, St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz said.