MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis man known for decades for selling watermelons is recovering after he was shot during a robbery attempt Monday morning.

The feeling of devastation was over the robbery and shooting of street vendor John Materna, known to many as “Red” or the Watermelon Man, especially at the corner of Homer Street and Wayne Avenue near Macon Road.

Randall Linn, who said he has been a personal friend of Materna for more than 40 years, said his were the best watermelons in town.

“Red would tell you if you purchased one (watermelon) and it wasn’t good come back and he’ll give you another one. You weren’t going to get nothing but quality,” said Linn. “He just enjoyed meeting people. He’s a people person. He could be rough at times, but that’s why we called him ‘Red.'”

Monday, Red, who could always be found selling watermelons out of his truck, was discovered lying on the ground suffering from a single gunshot wound to his left side.

Memphis Police say he was robbed by two men seen getting out of a silver Infiniti with a paper tag that read “RETIRED.” Police released photos of the suspect vehicle Wednesday afternoon.

A neighbor, who didn’t want to be identified, saw it all.

“All of a sudden, the one that got out of the passenger side come up there to me by the tree, hit my pocket and said up it, and that quick I heard pow, pow, and Red fell,” the witness said.

Red also had a gun.

“He (Red) shot back. Don’t know if he hit anybody going down or the car, but I know he was protecting himself as well as the other neighbor,” said Linn.

Red was shot in the stomach and rushed to the hospital.

“Our prayers are for complete recovery. I know they had to remove some parts because of the damage by a bullet, that he gets his recovery,” Linn said.

As prayers go out for Red, many hope he can one day return to selling his watermelons to friends and strangers, but they admit it’ll probably be at a new location because of criminals.

“I think it’s going to break his heart to have to lose that after so many years, but that neighborhood and that intersection have become quite dangerous at this time. If he does that and picks up one more watermelon, it’ll be a great day,” Linn said.

Linn said Red’s children will get his truck on Saturday and return to the corner of Homer and Wayne with his watermelons to sell in hopes of raising money to pay for his medical bills.

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Aside from the GoFundMe account, family members will also sell watermelons at the corner of Wayne and Homer Street Saturday at 9 a.m. to help pay his expenses.