I was leaving an ATM machine at 7:54 pm in a well-lit bank parking lot when I looked to my left and saw a young guy with a gun pointed at me. To make a long story short, he wasn’t satisfied with the $20 I had in my wallet. (I never carry lots of cash if I can help it.) “I’ll %!&# shoot you, I swear, if you don’t withdraw all the money in your account,” he said calmly and deliberately. Not wanting to make my wife a widow, I didn’t argue except to tell him that there were cameras everywhere and that he was going to get caught. I told him that he wouldn’t shoot me for only $200. When I handed him the cash, I showed him my ATM receipt. “See? That’s all I have.” I lied, but he didn’t look carefully. He told me. “Stand there for five minutes and don’t move.” As soon as he disappeared, I called 911 on my cell phone, which I had left in my car.
I then had to spend an hour with the police in the parking lot. They brought in a helicopter with infrared sensors and a police dog. They were able to trace the fresh scent to a dumpster and the helicopter was able to tell them that there was a “hot spot” where a vehicle had just been. Fascinating. I also had to drive half way across to town to spend another hour with a composite artist and we produced the following.
I realize the danger in posting this, but hopefully this guy won’t spend a lot of time reading Blogs before he gets caught. And he will get caught eventually. There is a $5000 reward being offered in such cases. And he’s not that smart. He was in plain sight of cameras and his face was exposed. If it were me, I would have also asked for my victim’s wallet, cell phone and car keys, I would have been wearing gloves and I would have thrown them in the dumpster. That would have given him a few more minutes. I learned a lot from this. I thank God I was not shot and it only cost me $220 to take steps to avoid this happening in the future.
How not to be robbed
1. Avoid ATMs whenever possible. I was shocked at how easily I caved in upon the threat of being shot dead, but somehow $200 wasn’t worth it. Unless it is a crowded area with armed security in sight, or it is an emergency, make all your deposits during bank hours. I only went to make deposit a check, but from now on, I am not using ATMs to do this. Nowadays, you can use your debit card in convenient stores and supermarkets to withdraw cash when making a purchase. It’s no guarantee, but it is less likely that you’ll be robbed in a store than in a parking lot.
2. If you are alone, have a cell phone with you. Keeping this in the car was probably a good idea in my case, because if the thief wanted to steal it, I still had to unlock the car to get the cell phone. The police later asked me why I didn’t use my cell-phone camera to take a photo. I was amazed that they actually asked this. The guy had a gun, and he would have taken the camera and possibly shot me in the process.
3. Remain calm and cooperate. I’ll admit upon seeing a gun, my first thoughts were, “Is it a toy?” but upon being threatened I decided that no amount of money I could withdraw from an ATM is worth my life.
4. If you are being robbed at gunpoint take your time. Don’t move too fast or too slow. If the thief’s face is in view, make a good mental picture of what he looks like. Pay attention to the eyes, eyebrows, cheekbones, mouth, chin and facial hair. Try to remember it. I was surprised when the composite artist showed me mug shots of people who had been arrested next to drawings she had made. Some were almost perfect representations. These were all drawn just from composite books and the victim’s memory. It’s likely that the thief will think he’s clever and won’t be caught. If he keeps robbing people, eventually he will be caught. That composite photo is going to be invaluable to other people besides you.
How should we then live?
We live like we are never going to die. We don’t think about how violent our culture has become. We see it, but don’t think it could happen to us. It’s important to think out these scenarios. How can we be act to be safe? What is the right thing to do in every imaginable emergency?
Last week, there was a death in my wife’s family, I had to break up a fistfight between two sixteen-year-old students in my school, and today someone pointed a gun at me. Each in their own way, these emergencies were new experiences to me. It has made me think about things differently. I am asking the same question the disciples posed, “How should we then live?” (Luke 3:10; Ezekiel 33:10).