According to police, a 28-year-old man attempted to rob a woman in the 300 block of Blount Street, in front of Growler USA.
The 23-year-old fired her weapon to keep the man -- later identified as Jonathan Tyrone Peace -- from attacking her.
He sustained a non life-threatening gunshot wound to the chest.
She stayed on scene until police arrived.
Detectives have obtained an arrest warrant charging Peace with common law robbery.
The incident sent one woman running out of a barber shop to see what happened.
"There were several of us sitting in the barber shop and a young man heard a pop and everybody looked and we said, 'That's a gunshot,'" said Lavern Robinson, who works at City Market and Barber Shop on Blount Street.
"So I went down there and talked to the young lady. I asked her was she all right," Robinson added. "She said yes. She said she was walking down the street, he came up and approached her. They started a conversation, and he grabbed the pocketbook and somehow - ain't no somehow - she shot him."
Sean Hoerter, of Raleigh, was walking out of Growler USA when the shooting happened.
"Honestly it was a blur. It was a lot of commotion," Hoerter said. "Once you realize what was going on, you looked up and you saw the towels soaking up the blood."
Hoerter said he and others walked across the street to Mofu Shoppe and heard the "pop" sounds. "It was kind of surreal."
He had a message for those who might think twice about visiting downtown.
"If I spoke to the public right now, I'd tell them this is not downtown Raleigh. This is isolated," Hoerter said. "This is not who we are."