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Learning the Value of Handguns the Hard Way

by Erving Holcomb

January 22, 2002 -- My name is Erving Holcomb, I am 63 years old and I work for the Harris County judge’s office in Houston TX. I never owned a handgun in my life until Jan. 19, 2002. On that day my life changed dramatically and forever.

This is my story.

On Saturday, January 19th 2002 at about 8:30 a.m. I was on my way to the auto store to get a few things for my car. I was driving along a three-lane boulevard in a typical commercial neighborhood, not a neighborhood known to be dangerous. Suddenly, a pickup truck pulled up on my right and abruptly cut in front of me and stopped to make a left turn. I applied my breaks, stopping quickly, and as I did I felt a bump from behind. I had been rear-ended. At first I wasn’t going to get out, I was in a hurry and it wasn’t that much of a hit to cause any damage I thought. On the other hand, as we all know, the insurance company and police will generally tell you, if you have an accident of any kind you should get out and exchange insurance information with the other driver, for even the most minor collision can oftentimes result in back or neck injuries that don’t show up for days or even weeks afterwards. So, I decided the wisest thing to do would be to get out of the car, go back and get the other driver’s license and insurance information.

Immediately the other driver accused me of causing the accident by stopping too quickly. I asked him if he saw the pickup truck cut me off abruptly as it passed him. Of course he hadn’t, it was his partner! After some discussion he politely insisted we exchange information in case I was hurt. 

I should have been suspicious. 

We pulled into a shopping mall parking lot. As he got out of his car and approached my vehicle I reached over for my insurance papers in the glove compartment. As I opened my door I was violently attacked. I was struck in the left eye with a large revolver. He hit me repeatedly in the face and alongside my head. I was immediately blinded in my left eye, my nose was broken, and my facial bones below the left eye were fractured. He pushed me into my car forcing me to lie down on the front seat. My wallet was ripped from my back pocket and he got all my identification including my bank ATM card. He demanded my wedding ring and other jewelry I was wearing or he would kill me. Next, he drove my car to a nearby bank drive-in repeatedly hitting me on the side and back of the head with the gun. At one point the gun went off narrowly missing my head and blowing a hole through the windshield. At the ATM machine he jammed the gun into the back of my head demanding the PIN number or he would “blow my head off”. As we left the bank I was laying on the front seat bleeding from the eyes and nose wondering how I was going to get out of this situation. He had everything he could take and now he didn’t have any use for me. My first thought was, to reach up and grab his gun hand in the hopes of causing an accident, which would attract attention; of course I might get shot to death in the process. Another thought was to open the car door at some point and try to jump out, but landing on the pavement at 35 mph didn’t sound too good either. Suddenly, a thought occurred to me: if I were to die in this situation he would be guilty of murder, capital murder, so why not die now! I took in a deep breath, held it as long as possible and when my lungs were about to burst, I started gasping for air and calling out: “I can’t breath, I can’t breath.” He hit me several more times saying he would kill me if I was faking. He then asked me what was wrong and I said, “My heart, my heart I can’t breathe.” He asked what I needed and I gasped “nitro, nitro glycerin, I have got to get to a drugstore, Walgreen’s, Walgreen’s”. He fell for it! He panicked; he thought I was dying right there in the car. Suddenly, he was on my side. Quickly he drove to a nearby Walgreen’s drugstore, opened the door and pushed my body out the door onto the pavement.

I laid there for several minutes just enjoying the warm sunshine, breathing and being alive. Several passersby walked around me, looked down, and kept going. A motorist came down the driveway and was kind enough to drive around me. Finally, after several minutes I got myself together, got up and walked into the store where the Walgreen’s manager called 911.

The Houston Fire Department took me to a nearby hospital where I spent the weekend, getting out late Sunday afternoon. Afraid that my attacker might come back again when he realized I had fooled him, I immediately contacted a friend, Houston Police Officer Bill Howard, whose daily patrol includes my office. I asked him if I was in danger. Officer Howard advised me to go immediately to the nearest gun store and get a police riot gun. Assuming he was a drug addict there was no telling what he was capable of doing. This kind of gun Bill said, I could take home without a waiting period, as might be the case with a handgun.

I arrived at the Collector’s Firearms shop minutes before closing time. When the staff saw my face and heard the story they closed the shop and turned out the front lights. The staff was very helpful and stayed nearly an hour to find me just the right gun and show me how to load and use it, if I had to. This was the first time in my life that I ever owned a gun. They also directed me to a gun instructor for lessons in shotgun shooting. Later, one of the salesmen known as “LD” would work with both my wife and I to select the most appropriate handguns for each of us.

I spent Sunday night sitting in a recliner with the shotgun across my lap wondering where my attacker was. The gun store had given me several “snap caps” to practice loading and firing with. By dawn I was the fastest shotgun in Houston.

Monday was spent notifying a great many people about the details of my accident. We were afraid to leave our apartment for fear we might come home and find him there.

Tuesday was a day of great irony. My spouse and I spent the morning in trauma counseling. My wife’s employer insisted we get some trauma counseling immediately. After spending an hour and half with a counselor we had lunch and then proceeded to an outdoor firing range where I received two hours of training in what the instructor referred to as “defensive shotgun shooting.” “We aren’t shooting ducks” he said. I was beginning to feel much better!! Upon arriving home, as we entered our apartment my wife switched on the TV. Suddenly I heard her scream: “the car, the car” as I turned to look at the TV I heard the announcer say “you are watching a live broadcast from our helicopter of a police chase in progress of a suspected armed………….” There it was, my car being chased by five Houston Police cars along a street not more than a few blocks from where we live. At first I couldn’t believe it, I thought I was watching something out of a TV movie, but there it was, I could see the bullet hole in the windshield, it was my car. The driver eventually crashed my car into a concrete barrier destroying it completely. I watched as several Houston Police officers dragged the man out through the passenger side window and handcuffed him.

A week later I was able to return to work. I immediately decided to become trained and licensed to carry a concealed weapon. Fortunately my office building has full time police security, Harris County Deputy Constable Wilbert Jue of Precinct 1 is on duty during business hours. Constable Jue is not only a law enforcement officer with several years experience, but is also a Texas licensed handgun instructor and a competitive marksman. Constable Jue and I made arrangements to begin my training program. In Texas you are required to attend ten hours of classroom instruction and two hours of actual shooting instruction. Wilbert helped me with the paperwork including the required finger printing and photographs. We went through the required program together and then he took me to the firing range and showed me how to use my newly acquired handgun. 

I am very fortunate to know both Officer Bill Howard and Constable Jue. It has been over a year now, we still meet frequently and they give me tips on being street smart and gun wise.

As a result of all of this I now have a new interest, shooting. I own three handguns and practice weekly. My wife is learning to shoot and will be getting her license soon. I have told many people who I work with and meet throughout the day that it is especially important these days that they consider personal security and self-defense. I would like to lend my full support to any and all organizations that support the right of the individual to own and carry firearms for self-defense. I feel uniquely qualified to answer that old, worn out question that the anti-gun establishment always asks: “to protect yourself against who?” I can answer that. While a great many others may have viewpoints and opinions I have the experience.

Here are a few twists to my story:
[submitted Jan 19, 2003]

Upon being admitted to Hermann Memorial Hospital my roommate, a young man who was in for a knee operation, was an experienced handgun marksman. He and his wife spoke with me on the urgent need to get handgun training. 

Another twist: I was already blind in my left eye, from a childhood accident, when the attacker struck me. The eye doctor at the hospital told me that had the gun struck my face just 2 inches further to the right I would have been totally blind. She said "you would be learning to read brail and use a white cane, you were unbelievably lucky". 

Yet another twist. My attacker committed the exact same crime three days earlier on Wednesday, attacking a woman, stealing her purse and her car. After taking her car the police found it totally burned up, he had set fire to it. HE ATTACKED HER WITH A KNIFE. He put a knife to her throat in a K-Mart parking lot and threaten to kill her. A tough little lady, somehow struggled and got away. 

My accident happened one year ago today. I went shooting this morning.


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