Stanley Wilkinson had a plan on how he would use his gun if an intruder ever came into his home: He and his wife would hole up in the bedroom and call 911, using the gun only to let an intruder know there was someone in the house.

But late Monday night, when he heard a noise outside his Rochester home and thought his granddaughter was sleeping upstairs at the other end of the house, the 61-year-old grabbed his pistol and went to investigate while his wife called 911. He told police that when he saw a figure at their patio door, he believed it was an intruder and fired two rounds, hitting the person once. That person turned out to be his granddaughter.

"Even if you have a plan for an emergency, you don't know what you'll do out of fear," Wilkinson said in a brief phone interview Thursday. "You get so frightened and something happens like that so, everything happens so quick ... you just don't know what you'll do when, out of fear you do things that you wish you hadn't ever done."

The granddaughter, 16, was hospitalized Monday night with a wound to her upper torso and was expected to survive, police had said. She was improving in the hospital Thursday, Wilkinson said: "The more we find out that she's going to be OK ... that's everything for us right now."

Wilkinson, a pastor at the Rochester Seventh-Day Adventist Church, agreed to speak with the Star Tribune as a caution to others who might find themselves in a similar situation.

"I had a plan but I didn't follow the plan," he said. "I thought somebody was breaking into my house and it just scared us to death."

Their granddaughter had moved from another state to live with them about two months ago, he said.

"She hadn't been there long enough for it to sink in for me to even fathom that she was outside," he said. "No way was I thinking she was out there at all. I was thinking she was up in her room. Like us, she had gone to bed."

Just before going to bed, he said, he had seen a report about a burglary that had happened nearby.

Members of Wilkinson's congregation were praying for Wilkinson and his family. Wilkinson and his wife are the "salt of the earth, the kindest, most wonderful people you could ever want to have for friends," said Peggy Vevang, who teaches a Bible class at the church once a month. Wilkinson is an avid canoeist and does good works in the local community as well as leading mission trips, including one to India, Vevang said.

Their granddaughter had been at church every week and helped in the kitchen with potlucks, she added.

"I can't imagine anything more devastating to them than for something like this to occur," Vevang said.

Wilkinson still could face charges. Police plan to talk to the girl, a lieutenant in the department said Thursday.

Under Minnesota law, a defender can use a gun if he reasonably perceives that there is a threat, such as someone in the house committing a felony, or if he believes he is in danger of death or great bodily harm.

Rochester police released a 911 transcript of the call from the house, with the pastor's wife begging for help in saving her granddaughter. According to the transcript, the woman told a dispatcher "there was an intruder, my husband thought there was an intruder, here it's our granddaughter was outside, she's been shot, please!"

"She's bleeding, bleeding bad!" she said later, explaining to the dispatcher that the girl was bleeding from the chest.

Responding to dispatcher questions, the woman said the girl was breathing and talking at first, then later she was just breathing.

"Please save her!" she told the dispatcher.

Wilkinson said he "would not want anybody to ever have this horrible, horrible experience."

Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102