Jan Cooper, of Anaheim, fired one shot from her .357 Magnum Smith & Wesson revolver around 12:30 a.m. Sunday as a man attempted to break into her home. During a 911 call during the incident, Cooper can be heard begging with the dispatcher to send deputies and warns that she has a gun at the ready as her Rottweiler barks furiously in the background.
Minutes later, a breathless Cooper says the man has come to the back porch and is trying to get in the house through a sliding door. Through the vertical blinds, Cooper saw his silhouette just inches away through the glass as he began to slide open the door.
"I'm firing!" Cooper shouts to the dispatcher as a loud band goes off.
Cooper then curses at the suspect, shouting at him to "back up."
"You'd better get the police here. I don't know whether I hit him or not. I'm not sure. He's standing at my door, my back door. He's in my yard," she said.
The suspect, 31-year-old Brandon Alexander Perez, was not hit and was arrested a short while later by responding deputies, who heard the gunshot, said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
Perez has pleaded not guilty to a burglary charge and has a court date later this month. The Associated Press was unable to leave an after-hours message for his attorney.
Perez had a rap sheet that included other burglary and narcotics charges and was on parole and staying at a halfway house not far from the Coopers' address, Amormino said.
Cooper's gun, which she has owned for about 20 years, was legally purchased and properly registered, he said.
"Even though that dog was barking, he still was desperate to get in. So who knows what may have happened if she didn't fire that round," Amormino said.
On Tuesday, Cooper was soft-spoken and composed, with her gray hair pulled back neatly in a hairband and her husband at her side during a news conference at a sheriff's substation.
Cooper said she is amazed by the anger in her voice - and the curse word she let fly - after she fired the shot.
"I am a Christian woman and I'm very proud of it and I don't curse, but after I shot, rage took hold and I just blasted away," she said. "And, in fact, afterwards my husband said, 'I've never heard you talk like that!'"
The stunned intruder apologized to Cooper after she fired, she recalled, telling her, "I'm sorry, ma'am. I'm leaving. Please don't shoot."
The grandmother of a 15-year-old grandson said she doesn't regret firing her weapon, although she has considered how she would have reacted if she had hit or killed the man. Deputies have told her that, based on his height and the bullet hole, the shot that she fired through a narrow gap in the sliding door passed within inches of his left cheek.
"I don't mean to shoot anybody," said Cooper, a self-described tomboy who has also tried archery and knife-throwing and has owned guns since her teens. "But whatever's necessary to literally stop them - he was not going to come into my home."
Her husband, Bob Cooper, chuckled when asked if his wife had learned her aggression from him and his military service. Cooper worked gathering intelligence in Italy and France in the buildup to D-Day and spent years going to the shooting range with his wife after the war, he said.
"I'm not surprised at all, not one bit," he said. "I know her capabilities and what she can do if she has to."