Bank robbery survivor supports right to bear arms, but also desires sensible gun laws
By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
ATLANTA, Georgia — As Mike McCoy walked toward the main lobby of the bank where he worked, a teller backed into him. Before he could tell her to watch out, he realized “we were both looking down the barrel of a gun.” The young gunman, wearing a ski mask, ordered Mike to drop the bag he was holding. He did. “It hit the ground and made a noise. I think that startled him, and he squeezed the trigger. I happened to be standing in front of it,” Mike, 52, recalls with clarity 29 years after surviving his near-fatal shooting.
A 1982 graduate of Assumption High School in Davenport, Mike has never shared his story in public, but agreed to talk with The Catholic Messenger as part of a discussion about gun violence. While he doesn’t own a gun, he supports the right to bear arms enshrined in the Constitution. He also wants people on both sides of the gun rights issue to enter a civil conversation about how to prevent rampant gun violence in the U.S.
Mike, the son of Deacon Bob and Pat McCoy of Davenport, recalls vivid details about the still-unsolved crime but doesn’t dwell on what happened to him, the lone shooting victim. He’s long forgiven the shooter and assumes it was “a kid going through gang initiation who would probably never do anything like that again.”
“I remember everything. I was facing him when I got shot. Apparently, I spun around from the force of the bullet. I was standing up the entire time. Peripherally, I saw the front of my orange-striped shirt go red.” The shirt was a Christmas gift from his parents; he worried about it getting ruined.
The bullet entered his chest between his ribs, just missing his heart and spine as it exited through his back. “It went through me and through a computer and into the wall behind me,” Mike said. “I was exceptionally fortunate.” He described being shot at close range: “If someone hit you with all the force they could muster and it was concentrated in a space the size of a dime, that’s what it felt like.”
Rushing out of his office, the bank manager yelled for everybody to get down. He helped Mike walk into the main part of the lobby so he could lie down waiting for medical assistance. “It was odd. It was very surreal,” Mike remembers. His faith in God sustained him. Lying on the floor with colleagues surrounding him, he thought: ‘“If it’s time, it’s time. I put it in God’s hands.’ Then I quickly realized … if I can focus on breathing, I can breathe. I’m going to get help. It’s probably not my time.”
Paramedics arrived, and stabilized Mike before transporting him to the trauma center at Grady Hospital in downtown Atlanta. His parents were called. “Mike told them to tell us that he’d been shot in the arm,” his dad said. “Every phone call after that, it was more serious,” Mike’s mom remembered. She chokes up thinking about the trip to Atlanta — with a stopover in St. Louis because of bad weather. Everyone was in festive spirits on the plane while she worried about her critically injured son.
Mike’s right lung had collapsed as a result of the bullet passing through his chest. Doctors explained what they were going to do, but waited for law enforcement officers to speak with him. “They asked me if I remembered what occurred, and I did.”
When Mike awoke from surgery he felt nauseated, which was a bad sign. He was hemorrhaging. The next thing he remembered was waking up in Grady Hospital’s ICU. That’s where he saw his mom. She was stunned to see some patients, apparently crime suspects, secured to their beds. This was a hospital that specialized in treating gunshot victims.
“I was glad to see Mike alive,” Pat said. She stayed by her son’s side for several weeks (he was transferred to another hospital). “I kept calling my boss and saying, ‘I can’t come home yet,’” recalled Pat, a retired educator. Back at home, the CEW (Christian Experience Weekend) community from St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport, crowded into the McCoy home to offer support. “It wasn’t just a social gathering. They were praying … personal prayer from the heart and formal prayer,” said Bob whose work commitments as a pharmacist kept him at home. The prayers of their CEW community encouraged Pat, too. “It was the first time I realized the power of prayer.”
Mike’s recovery was swift, because of his otherwise good physical condition, but painful. His gratitude was immense. “I was fortunate. Mom was there and I had great support from people at work and a good cadre of friends who would come to visit.”
Initially, he wanted to know who shot him. “Once they told me I never would have to testify, I decided I’d rather move on and focus on other things,” Mike noted. He’s had little desire to try to find the shooter over the years. “To the best of my knowledge, he’s never been found.”
Mike has no lasting medical issues, for which he is grateful. “I felt a little bit nervous afterwards about my surroundings,” he said. Crowd size could overwhelm him. He consciously changed some of his behaviors. “I try to position myself in a meeting where I can see all of the exits.”
In terms of the shooting’s impact on his life he points to positive things that have occurred. He’s in his present career because of what happened, moving from the financial side of banking to corporate communications and public relations management for a large bank in the South. He appreciated how the communications personnel of the first bank he worked at reached out to him and his family after the shooting and beyond. His gratitude has led to volunteer work as well. He serves on a board of directors for an agency that provides housing for people with HIV-AIDS who would otherwise be homeless.
Thoughts on gun violence
As a survivor of gun violence, “I’ve got the victim’s perspective. But I also recognize that the right (to bear arms) is enshrined in the Constitution. It’s there. But I also think the vitriol around the conversation is getting to the point of unreasonable. Given the statistics in the United States around gun violence, there has to be a way to have conversations about how we can minimize those incidents. Even attempts like President Obama’s recent executive action (on gun safety measures) get lost in both sides of the argument.
“His executive actions aren’t about taking away gun rights, but that’s what some are saying and it’s a distraction from the conversation we need to have, such as keeping guns away from (people who are) mentally ill, which is something I think most people would agree with.” Mike views the President’s 10-point executive action as “steps and maybe a start of a broader conversation.”
People should be able to articulate their thoughts, lay out their arguments and try to meet in the middle, Mike believes. He wonders whether open-carry gun laws don’t create a bigger problem. “If I’m in the Atlanta airport and see a guy with a long gun, how do I know it’s a good guy? Unless he’s wearing ‘I’m a good guy’ T-shirt, no one knows.”
Twenty-nine years ago, Mike nearly lost his life to a man with a gun. It could have consumed him with bitterness and a desire for vengeance. But he chose to direct his life toward fostering positive relationships with others. “The company I worked for when all of this occurred was absolutely wonderful. … I learned from that situation. I really appreciated the treatment I received. It’s something I have tried to emulate.”