I was contacted this week by a self-storage owner who operates a couple of facilities in Kentucky. On Aug. 7, one of his managers endured a harrowing experience with two storage tenants, a 30-something-year-old couple undergoing separation. Below is the heroic tale of "Steady Eddie," who faced potential homicide and tenant suicide on what was otherwise a languid, hot Saturday in Louisville, Ky.
Ed Holt is the resident manager of A-1 Self Storage in Louisville, Ky. Ed is 69 years young and will turn 70 later this month. Like managers at many other facilities, Ed is a one-man show. In fact, he’s been the only employee at A-1 for the entire 15 years since the facility was built. The 52,000-square-foot facility constructed of concrete block walls and steel roofing is in a residential area on the east end of town―the “good” end of town. Until recently, it was a peaceful part of town.
It was another hot, humid August day. The hottest summer in many years. Perhaps the hottest summer ever. Psychologists claim humans turn more violent during summers such as these. This day was to be no exception.
Six weeks earlier, a woman rented a 10-by-15 storage unit. She was the named tenant on the lease. Her boyfriend accompanied her on this day and a few subsequent days as well. All was fine between them.
A few weeks later, the boyfriend shows up to pay the rent. In addition, he requests to change the name on the lease to his own. Lastly, he wanted to change the electronic gate-access code. On this day, Ed asked the 33-year-old man if things were OK between he and his girlfriend. Ed also inquired as to whether the original named tenant approved of this transfer? The man replied yes to both questions.
Around 1:25 p.m. on this slow and quiet Saturday, Ed was fighting off sleep when he heard what sounded like a fire cracker just outside his office window. What he actually heard was a gunshot.
All was not well with the couple. They were going through a separation. They drove separate vehicles through the electronic gate. She followed him through. After removing her last possessions from the unit, she tried her code, which had been removed from the system three days earlier. The male would not share his new code with the ex-girlfriend. She drove 30 feet away and parked next to Ed’s office. Before she could exit her new maroon pickup truck to ask Ed to open the gate, the ex-boyfriend was standing between the building and the truck with a semi-automatic pistol sticking through the open passenger-side window and aimed at the female driver’s head.
The shot Ed heard was the one that blew out the rear window of the pickup truck, only inches from the woman’s head. The shooter then pointed the gun at his own head. The female got out of the truck and quickly walked around to the shooter. She grabbed his arm, pulled it down and said, “You don’t want to do that.”
Ed had moved to the rear door of the office and was watching through the narrow view lite. The door window is 4 inches wide and 20 inches high. The female turned, saw Ed, and bolted inside the building saying, “He’s going to kill me.” The man was right on her heals and followed her inside.
Ed shouted at the man, “Get out of here!” The man actually turned to leave and said, “She’s with the agency, man.” As soon as he left, Ed pushed the lock on the door handle. He did not insert a key to lock the deadbolt, he merely locked the handle. The female was phoning 911 from the office phone in the lobby.
Ed went to his office window to observe the man. After pacing about outside, the agitated man tried to re-enter the building but discovered the door had been locked. He then tore a screen from an office window. The female quickly locked herself in the restroom off the lobby.
Meanwhile, Ed retrieved a 38-caliber revolver, the one he had purchased a few years earlier from his uncle, a retired security guard, for $25. He never dreamed he would ever use it; he merely purchased it because it was so inexpensive. At the time, Ed thought it would be a nice insurance policy to keep the pistol nearby.
The man then shot two bullets through the view lite of the heavy, commercial, hollow, metal office door. The glass in the window was the quarter-inch thick polished wire type designed to prevent break-ins. The shooter used his pistol to expand the opening in the glass. He reached in to turn the handle to open the door. Upon extracting his hand from the tiny opening, he cut himself and began splattering a good deal of blood. The shooter was now entering the building.
Ed had not handled a weapon in years. In fact, he had never even shot this pistol. Now he was aiming it at the armed man who just shot his way into the building, the man walking down the corridor, searching for his ex-girlfriend.
Nine out of 10 people would have emptied their pistol at the crazed younger man as soon as he stepped into the building. Ten out of 10 trained police officers would have placed two rounds into the chest cavity of the suspect―but not Ed, a lean, six-foot-six gentle giant who is always quick to lend a helping hand or a sympathetic ear. Ed knew this guy. He had enjoyed a few conversations with the man during his brief visits these past few weeks. The absolute last thing Ed wanted to do was to shoot this guy, and yet he had very few options remaining.
The shooter is nearing the end of the hallway; this is a very small office. But as he slowly walks nearer to where Ed was standing, his gun remains pointed at the floor. Ed yells, “Stop!” The shooter continues and responds, “I’m not going to shoot you, or her; I’m going to shoot myself.” The shooter’s eyes are darting around looking for his ex-girlfriend. The hunter is searching for his frightened prey. At the end of the hallway, the shooter turns toward the lobby and the closed bathroom door. The same door that is always open, left open unless someone is within. Always left open.
The shooter’s gun starts to rise and Ed is thinking, “He is going to shoot through the door.” Ed sternly tells the shooter, “You need to leave. You need to leave now!”
Winston Churchill once said, “Few things in life are as invigorating as having been shot at without result.” Ed is full of vigor. His senses are on full alert. Everything seems to be moving in slow motion―excruciatingly slow. Ed has the shooter in his gun sights. His gun is leveled on the shooter. Ed becomes saddened as he realizes he is going to have to shoot this guy, shoot him before he shoots through the bathroom door.
But rather than aiming the gun on the door, the shooter’s gun continues to rise ... Not in Ed’s direction, as Ed has positioned himself at 90 degrees from the bathroom door, a position that permits him a slight advantage. If the shooter turns toward Ed, Ed will have a split second in which to make the decision to squeeze the trigger. The man’s gun rises to his own head, and he gets a puzzled look on his face. He looks at his weapon and lowers it. The gun has jammed. The shooter pulls back the semi-automatic’s slide to clear the jammed round, which drops to the floor. Ed then shouts, “Get out of here now, or I’ll shoot you myself!”
The shooter then departs through the front door. Ed quickly locks the front door and relocks the rear door. He now gets to relax for a moment. The woman remains in the bathroom and will not come out. The police investigation reveals the shooter was of the mistaken belief that his ex-girlfriend worked for the CIA. (She does not.)
The shooter then inputs his gate code and re-enters the compound. The shooter tries to re-enter through the rear door. The shooter is now peering into the office window and sees Ed on the phone with 911. Ed wisely ducks out of view and stays so until the police arrive.
Rather than getting into his own car, the shooter climbs into his ex-girlfriend’s pickup truck and drives around a few buildings within the facility compound. Soon he is on the wide rear drive and gaining speed as he heads toward the locked, 24-foot-wide, sliding, cantilevered, chain-link gate. The truck plows through the gate, pulling it from the fence row. The damaged gate is bent at a 60-degree angle and is standing straight up, blocking the side road, forming an 8-foot-tall barrier. If one intentionally tried to place the gate in that position to block the road, they could not have done a better job.
The shooter backs up and drives on the grass to get around the gate. He drives less than a mile away and enters the couple’s formerly shared apartment. He proceeds to attempt a failed suicidal drug overdose.
Meanwhile, four police cruisers are racing toward the mini-storage facility with sirens blaring. Ed’s and the ex-girlfriend’s nightmares are almost over. But the police vehicles fly by the front entrance, and the anxiety that was about to be relieved continues to build. At this time, Ed doesn’t know where the shooter is. The police turn down the side street, heading toward the rear entrance. Evidently the police had multiple calls, and someone from the adjacent apartment complex must have described the scene at the rear gate. The police were hoping to catch the shooter at the rear entrance.
The police arrive at the couple’s apartment shortly afterward and promptly arrest the shooter. After cuffing the man, the police begin to confirm his identity. Upon calling in the information to perform the routine cross check, the police discover he has two outstanding arrest warrants.
About two hours later, the police crime scene investigator wraps things up. The yellow police tape is removed and the shell-casing markers on the driveway are retrieved. Ed’s heart rate is still a little fast, but getting closer to normal. He grabs a broom and begins sweeping up the broken glass. (Ed likes to keep things tidy.)
The day’s events would have played out entirely different had it not been for Ed’s phenomenal patience and courage. Very few people are capable of exercising the restraint Ed displayed. I recently heard of a new medal the Obama Administration is contemplating issuing to solders who display “courageous restraint.” It is given to soldiers who restrain from returning fire at enemy combatants when civilians are nearby. Ed is very deserving of such a medal. No doubt his new nickname should be Steady Eddie.
According to the author, Ed was not even done sweeping the floor when another young woman walked through the front door saying, “My boyfriend and I are breaking up. Our unit is in his name, but my stuff is in it. I have both keys and want to retrieve my stuff, but I don’t have a gate code...” Ever have one of those days?
Story submitted by Kevin Cunningham of Cunningham Overhead Doors & Windows in Louisville, Ky.