This is my version of a first person story I received from one of the www.netgunsmith.com readers. I have fictionalized it marginally, based on my interpretation of the story I received.
Gun Violence: Situation at a Financial Institution
I’m a stock broker in the south; when everyone was moving to New York, I stayed close to home. I was good at what I did and knew I could make a great living with my book of business I had built up for the last 15 years. It was about comfort, knowing I could service these clients: friends, family and those who had faith in me while I was getting started in financial services. We were connected with a bank, one of the biggest in the South, and we did have some money on hand to help settle CD’s and Money Market Accounts, as well as cashier’s checks, but the amount of money was minimal. We basically operated under the badge of the bank, but handled only investments and high net worth clients and their needs. I guess you could say it’s about as close to private wealth management as you could get in my neck of the woods.
It was the 1990’s and wealth was being created without equal in the United States; I had clients go from owning small and humble 401k’s to borrowing on margin and buying unknown internet and biotech stocks and becoming millionaires overnight. I had Southern Belles, old factory workers and trust fund kids, all doing better than anyone could expect. In fact the only thing that hadn’t managed to get inflated was my ego; I was ready for the bubble to burst, I was always the guy with all the prudence.
A situation unlike any other we expected
It was a normal day in the practice, we were ready to see a smiling client, happy that our oversight of their pension fund had resulted in another 10% month over month increase in Net Asset Value. The men who walked through the door weren’t our clients, though.
The next 2 and a half hours would change our lives forever. We would witness one of the most spectacular and vicious events of all of our lives and it would end with the loss of someone we held dear to us. The motivation: Money. The reality: it was doomed from the beginning; we never even had the amount the thieves had come for.
Two men came into our branch in masks, but we almost thought it was a joke. After all, we weren’t a bank and we didn’t carry as much cash as any sane (?) robber would need to justify the armed robbery conviction that could result.
They knew enough about our floorplan and the positioning of our people to get to work fast. It started as a normal robbery I guess, until they realized that we didn’t have what they wanted. They assumed we were lying, but we didn’t care about the money. Every retail banking and financial center affiliated with a larger financial firm got mandatory robbery training, crisis management training and knew that the money would be insured, able to be replaced immediately, and that a vast majority of robberies of banking institutions led to an arrest and conviction. We had cameras, a great staff that had been together for years and knew we didn’t have anything to lose in the situation.
I knew the staff was capable, because many of them were hired by me; handpicked and trained to be spectacular assets to the organization. One of the employees was even a family friend, whose daughter was my babysitter.
The day was hot outside, but cool in the building, we were bothered, maybe a bit afraid, but we were sure this situation would be ended soon enough. We knew if we complied with the robbers demands, that common wisdom and the statistics said, we would get out of this situation unharmed. We were waiting for it to be over, but then it wasn’t. They weren’t happy with the $2500 we claimed to have in the branch, they assumed we were lying and they were getting angry fast. But we didn’t have any more money. We had a few lockboxes, but none of them had the second key, and there was no way we could get anything out of them without that second key. The man by the door, obviously the brains of the operation as we would later find out, decided it was time to leave, but as he was telling the point man to wrap up his business, he realized there was a police cruiser outside.
We hadn’t hit the alarm yet, and in what would eventually be described as some of the worst luck in our lifetimes, a random police officer getting money out of an ATM across the parking lot, caused our little robbery to escalate into a hostage situation. He panicked, started shouting orders and soon enough we were lowering our metal security screens and securing the doors; turning down our window blinds and being told to group together on the ground. Myself and my closest friend in the office were the only ones let to stand, as we were the most direct route to the “money” in the minds of the robbers.
It was about then, that the other employee hit the silent alarm, and before the Cop outside had a chance to leave, he unwittingly realized he was the first responder to a hostage situation at the bank he was 50 feet away from. We were powerless, without guns, unable to be helped from outside law enforcement, and trapped in a hostage situation, with the robbers kept in check by a single uniformed police officer. Soon, the SWAT team and others were outside, but the day was just beginning.
It was about as close to a Hollywood hostage situation as you can get; in fact, for all the things Hollywood gets wrong, they portray the bank robbery hostage situation very accurately. It’s possible the robbers had watched a move to help them script their actions, but the bad luck and the random variables that could not be controlled caused this act, to spiral out of control fast. Our employees knew what not to do, and we were doing everything we were asked to. In fact, the only reason anything bad resulted was that the robbery crew had zero desire in getting caught for this heist. In a series of events that still haunt me to this day, I saw a close friend murdered in cold blood, without reason. Not for resisting, not for being out of control, not for trying to wrestle a gun away from one of our captors, but because the mental state of the gunman was too fragile and the situation too risky for his future, that he panicked and decided that someone needed to die, so that at least he could prove a point that for some fraction of a second he had control.
It wasn’t a spectacular Hollywood style death scene, rather one of sadness, disbelief and slow agonizing pain from a bullet which missed a vital organ probably by less than an inch or two. The woman whose daughter babysat my children died before me slumped over, gasping for air shot through the side, and bleeding out. It was an unbelievably cold and vicious act, one which eventually changed my mind about everything I held sacred. It was an event in my life which was defining for me, it gave me the resolve to never again be a victim of anyone else exacting control in that way over me or those whom I loved in this way.
In a few minutes after the death of our good friend and co-worker, the situation was over and the one time bank robbers, now murderers and accessories to murder, were in the custody of the local law enforcement.
But the situation wasn’t ever really over.
It took years for each of us to get past the events of that day, and those of us who are still working in the same or similar capacities (many moved on from the branch) perhaps relive these events many times a month, remembering and still hurting from a tragedy that wasn’t necessary. I personally replay the events often, I use it as a catalyst to train harder, gain more success, be a better father, husband, boss and to keep me in line, when I feel like getting angry. I use the events of that day as a catalyst to my own personal defense and those that I have stewardship over.
I now carry beneath my business suit jacket in a inside the waistband holster, a Glock 33 on a daily basis.
None of my employees know and I hope of course to never have reason for them to know. In fact, if we were to be robbed in a standard robbery, I would let them walk while never un-holstering my gun. In a life threatening situation, however, I would (with God’s help) effectively intervene to save my own life or those of my employees.
On the days that the coat comes off, I have a Ruger LCP that can be carried with anything. It may not be as effective, but it is much better than being unarmed.
In my mind, carrying is duty that I have for others. I learned the hard way. I carry even while watching TV at home as you can never know when the unexpected will happen.
Be prepared for any situation
Nothing can prepare you for the death of friends or family, when you know that given a different set of variables, that you could prevent it. The only thing you can do is be ready for anything, know your capacity, and be willing to make the choice to be informed, well trained, and have the tools necessary to protect yourself and others in a bad situation. Criminals do not have regard for you or the law; they only make decisions based on their limited outlook on the situation at hand. They are not predictable in many cases, and it is not to be counted on, to be able to reason or prevent them from perpetrating life altering decisions.