Robinson, 53, died Feb. 24, but it wasn't until May 28 that the chief medical examiner's office in Baltimore reviewed medical records and determined that though 32 years had passed, three bullets Knott and Menas fired in 1981 were to blame for Robinson's death.

The coroner said Robinson suffered cardiopulmonary arrest — his heart stopping, along with acute renal failure, dysphagia or difficulty swallowing, and cerebral vascular accident, commonly known as a stroke.

"These are all consequences of being shot," said Bruce Goldfarb, the medical examiner's spokesman.

Baltimore police say homicides or deaths from trauma inflicted years before surface a handful of times annually. A few weeks ago, police classified a man's December death as a homicide that stemmed from being shot in the back by an unknown person in 1997.

The cause of a paralyzed 62-year-old man's death in 2010 was linked to police shooting him in 1975 after police said he charged a Baltimore officer with an ax. That shooting was ruled justifiable, like Robinson's.

"All he had to do was take his hand out of his pocket," Menas said. "I'm sorry that he's gone, and I'm sorry he suffered all these years."

For 18 more years, Menas worked as a police officer but never fired his gun at anyone again.

Knott never drew his gun again, either. He left the department three years after the shooting for more pay selling cars. But he always looked back at his time as a police officer with pride, and he doesn't hesitate to talk about the shooting.

"I had to pull my gun once," he said. "I'm not ashamed of it nor am I proud of it, but I had to shoot a man."

The gravity of the situation was something he said he carried all his life. Several years ago, he ran into Menas and his family at a crabhouse. He told Menas' daughter, "Your daddy saved my life." Then he secretly paid for Menas' bill before he left.

Knott said the shooting made him more grateful. It even changed his tastes.

"I never drank hot chocolate again," he said. "I began drinking coffee after that."

Over the next few weeks, Knott said, he plans to move from his home in Allegany County and follow his children somewhere "down South."

It's warmer on his bones, he said, and hot chocolate is rarely served or offered.

jgeorge@baltsun.com

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