I’d never drawn my gun in public before. Everything about it felt wrong, scary even, but it had to be done.
He had barreled through the front door, cursing and shooting wildly. “Everyone down on the floor! Now!”
Screams pierced the air as people dove for the floor. I ducked behind a kiosk with deposit and withdrawal slips, just as a light fixture exploded above my head. A few feet away, an old woman cowered behind a customer service desk. She closed her eyes and crossed herself. I could see her lips move as she prayed silently.
A small girl clung to her mother. “I don’t want to die,” I heard her say, and her mother squeezed her tightly, shielding her.
The gunman jumped onto the first desk he saw, a crazed look in his eyes. He hurled a small duffel bag at the tellers. It flew over my head, landing just behind me.
“Money in the fucking bag! Now!” he shouted. Dust and debris rained down on us as more bullets shredded the ceiling tiles. “Move it!”
How many shots did he fire? If I’d been thinking clearly, maybe I would have counted. But I wasn’t thinking clearly. I was terrified.
My palms were sweaty and my stomach churned. His gun boomed like a cannon, echoing off the walls. I jumped with every shot.
I have to get out of here. I didn’t want to wait for whatever happened next, but he was between me and the exit. I didn’t dare make a run for it. I had no idea what kind of shot this guy was, and I wasn’t about to find out.
My thoughts quickly turned to my family. Will I ever see them again? Will I ever play with my kids again? Will I ever kiss my wife again?
Is this guy going to kill someone?
Is he going to kill me?
I tried to consider my options, but I couldn’t think clearly between the fear and the deafening gunfire.
Nothing prepares you for a situation like this.
My eyes darted in all directions. People cowered in corners, women screamed with every shot fired, babies cried. The tellers scrambled to gather as much cash as they could, frantically shoving it into the duffel bag.
How long until he kills someone?
Seconds passed like hours.
I knew what I had to do.
“Hurry up!” the gunman shouted. He fired more shots, and screams echoed again.
My pistol rested in the holster inside my waistband near the small of my back. I carried it with me everywhere, never really believing I’d actually need it. Hoping I’d never need it. I’d met police officers twenty years on the force who’d never fired their weapons in the line of duty.
Nervously, I reached back and slowly slid the gun from its holster, keeping it behind me. It was a P30SK 9mm made by Heckler & Koch. It had ten rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber. I’d fired it hundreds of times, but never at another human being.
Crouched behind the counter, hidden from his view, I slowly brought the pistol around in front of me. My hands shook from fear and nerves. I closed my eyes and took a breath.
Is this really happening?!
I took another quick look around. One of the tellers locked eyes with me. She saw what I was doing. She shook her head, and with a look, begged me not to do it.
More yelling, another shot, and we all jumped.
I peered out from behind the table. He was about twenty feet away, still up on the desk, waving his gun and shouting commands.
I dipped back behind the kiosk, closed my eyes again and took a deep breath.
It didn’t feel real, almost like I was watching from the outside.
I got down up one knee, and slowly leaned out just far enough to get my pistol around the edge of my hiding place. His elevated position meant my background was clear. No one would be hit if I missed.
Raising my pistol, I prayed he wouldn’t see me before I could fire. My hands shook as I took aim.
I tried to remember my training, but fear wiped my mind blank. I was going to have to rely on muscle memory and luck.
The pistol felt heavier than usual in my hands.
My head was spinning with a thousand thoughts and questions.
This is crazy!
Am I really about to shoot at this guy? What if I miss?
What if he shoots me?
What if I don’t do it? No, I have to do it.
I’d practiced with my weapon hundreds of times, but now it was for real. Now it counted.
I leaned against the edge of the table and steadied myself the best I could. As my hands shook, I attempted to align the sights on his chest.
I took a slow, deep breath.
Oh my god…
I slowly pressed the trigger. POP! The sound was deafening.
The bullet struck him in the chest, just below his right collarbone. His eyes opened wide from shock as the impact knocked him backwards. He teetered at the edge of the desk but managed to regain his balance.
How did he not fall?!
It didn’t take him long to realize where the shot had come from. He glared at me and pointed his gun in my direction. I didn’t hear anything as he pulled the trigger. My ears were still ringing from my first shot.
I took aim at his head and fired again.
Between my shaking hands and his wobbly movements, I missed. The vaulted window behind him exploded, and glass rained down on the floor.
He startled as the bullet whizzed by his ear, and then he took aim at me again.
He extended his pistol and fired. Again I heard nothing but the ringing in my ears and the screams all around me.
I couldn’t block it out, so I would have to deal with it. I took another deep breath, hugged the edge of the kiosk, adjusted my sight picture, and fired again. This time the bullet found its mark, exploding his right eye and penetrating his brain cavity. He toppled backwards off the desk, landing hard on the floor, where he lay motionless.
He was dead. That much I knew.
The shootout lasted only a few seconds, though it felt a lot longer.
I remained down on one knee, arms out, pistol up for a while. I started to shake all over as the adrenaline dump kicked in.
Despite the ringing in my ears, all I could hear was my heart pounding. I smelled the smoke of my gun. Everything else faded away.
Moments later, the front doors of the bank burst open as SWAT came crashing through behind a cloud of smoke. They fanned out, guns raised, shouting at everyone to get down, don’t move.
Smoke filled the air and my eyes began to water.
I dropped my gun and raised my hands high over my head.
Someone grabbed me roughly and threw me to the floor. A knee was pressed hard into my back as my hands were bound behind me with zip ties. More than one gun was trained at my head.
Someone asked me to identify myself.
Was I a police officer?
Was I ex-military?
My name is Dr. Simon Spero.
I’m an optometrist.
And I can’t believe what I just did.