As doctors patch the injuries that Robert Pinckney suffered when he tried to wrest a high-powered weapon from a crazed gunman, he knows his life will never be the same.

Not that it was great before the shooting.Pinckney, 35, is sketchy about his past. Came from Santa Rosa. In and out of foster homes. Had some run-ins with police. Drinks some beer.

Most recently, he lived in an underground parking garage with another man, William Turner. The owner let them sleep there in return for keeping an eye on the place.

Even before the 25 terrifying minutes that Pinckney lay helpless and bleeding at the center of the Nov. 13 shootout, the allure of the streets had already faded.

"It's fun for a while, but it's actually getting worse now, not like when I first went out," he said from his hospital bed. "Homeless robbing from homeless. Rape. It's not getting any easier."

Then, in a rare show of anger, he sat up and his eyes flashed.

"And of course, these nuts who like to blow people away just out of the blue, OK?" Then, the anger gone, he settled back.

Pinckney's battle with the gunman and his warning to an officer who died in the shootout, made him famous - briefly.

He lost a large chunk of his right thigh to the first .223 caliber bullet that Vic Boutwell fired into him as they grappled on a San Francisco street.

He lost a chunk of his right arm to a second round Boutwell fired as Pinckney crouched between parked cars.

In all, 150 to 200 bullets were fired by Boutwell and police trying to stop him. After police shot and killed Boutwell, they handcuffed and battered Pinckney, thinking he was another shooter.

Now, a new and painful chapter in his life has begun.

"We're going to live happily ever after," Pinckney said wryly, glancing down at his bandaged and useless arm and leg, and then at Turner.

Above his San Francisco General Hospital bed is a "Certificate of Recognition" from Mayor Frank Jordan. Pinckney jokes about it but displays it prominently.

He's considering suing police for beating him after the shooting. He might be able to collect enough money from a settlement and general assistance to get an apartment with Turner.

Or he just may wind up back in the garage, says his housing counselor, Lisa Hamburger of the privately funded Corporation for Public Housing.

"It's entirely conceivable. Nothing's been offered or accepted yet," she said.

And there are the physical reminders. Doctors transplanted back muscle into a gaping hole in his right leg and covered it with transplanted skin. He's not sure when he'll get back use of the leg muscle.

"I have no movement in my hand, except to go like this," he says, making a barely perceptible claw. "They're going back in to tighten the tendon."

Janice Papedo, his psychiatric social work liaison, warns him that his rehabilitation will be long and arduous. But she said Pinckney seems equipped to survive his ordeal.

"One of the things that was striking about Robert from day one was his sense of humor," she said.

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Turner wheels his friend through the corridors for frequent smoking breaks and keeps track of his medical appointments.

"I've been thinking about a lot of things," Turner said. "We've got to get off the streets. We're getting a little too old to just bop down the street and party all the time."

Pinckney has higher ambitions than unpaid night watchman at a garage, he admits with a little prodding.

"I'd like to do counseling, pre-teens," he said. "I'd tell them to get out of the streets. I've been on both sides. I grew up in foster houses. I know what it's like."

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