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Onetime boxer, 72, ex-Marine pummels would-be pickpocket

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Bill Barnes, 72, a retired ironworker, said he acted on instinct recently when he thwarted a pickpocket attempt at a convenience store in Comstock Park, Mich.

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Bill Barnes said he was scratching off a losing $2 lottery ticket inside a gas station when he felt a hand slip into his front-left pants pocket, where he had $300 in cash.

He immediately grabbed the person's wrist with his left hand and started throwing punches with his right, landing six or seven blows before a store manager intervened.

"I guess he thought I was an easy mark," Mr. Barnes, 72, told the Grand Rapids Press.

He's no easy mark: Mr. Barnes served in the Marines, was an accomplished Golden Gloves boxer, and retired after 20 years as an ironworker.

Jesse Daniel Rae, the 27-year-old Newaygo County man accused of trying to pick Mr. Barnes' pocket, was arraigned Monday in Rockford District Court on one felony count of unarmed robbery.

Mr. Barnes said he had just withdrawn the money from a bank and put it in his pocket before driving to the gas station in Comstock Park, Mich.

He remembers noticing a patron acting suspiciously, asking the price of different brands of cigarettes and other items. When Mr. Barnes felt the hand in his pocket, he took action.

"I guess I acted on instinct," he said.

Kent County sheriff's deputies said the store manager quickly came around the counter. The three of them struggled through the front door, where two witnesses said the manager slammed Mr. Rae to the ground and held him there.

Mr. Barnes was a regional runner-up in Golden Gloves competition in the novice and open divisions before enlisting in the Marines in 1956.

He lived most of his adult life in Comstock Park with his wife, Patricia, before recently moving to Ottawa County. The couple have three children.

Mr. Barnes said he'd probably do the same thing again under the same circumstances, if for no other reason than what he would face back home.

"I wouldn't want my wife to [be mad at me] for lettin' that guy get my money," he said.

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