Wednesday, May 21, 2003

'I'm no hero'

One man who made a stand


He's been called "vigilante," "hothead," "hero," "guardian angel" and other names that are unprintable. Hal McKinney says he's none of the above.

"You can be a hero, a scapegoat or a martyr," he says. "But sooner or later, you've gotta stand up."

McKinney is the man who shot an armed robber in Junker's Tavern on May 8. He was charged with assault and illegally having a gun in a bar, but a grand jury refused to indict him after hearing evidence that he had been threatened by drug dealers in his Northside neighborhood near the bar.

"I'm not a hero," he said. He's sure he saved lives, "but one of those lives was mine."

'This is a robbery'

"It was not altruistic. The real heroes are the guys who patrol that beat every night."

Here's his story.

He went out for milk at the local UDF, and stopped in Junker's to see the owner, Tony Coyne. "He had promised he was going to get into COP (Citizens on Patrol). They said he's not here right now but he'll be right back."

So he sat down and ordered a Corona.

"I had about three sips when I saw these guys trying to get in the door. They had T-shirts pulled up over their heads and they were looking out the necks. They yelled 'This is a robbery, nobody (expletive) move."

McKinney was armed but decided, "I'm certainly not going to get anyone hurt over money."

The robbers shoved aside the elderly bartender and one rifled the cash drawer while the other waved his gun around "about two inches from my nose," McKinney said.


Joe Person, 18, of Walnut Hills, put his gun to the head of one of the regulars and told him, "Give me your (expletive) wallet or I'm gonna blow your (expletive) brains out," McKinney said.

The man at the bar said, "Go to hell."

"I said, 'Uh-oh.' I knew we had a problem." McKinney drew his gun and said, "That's enough."

Person repeated his threat; the man at the bar said, "Do it." Person said, "You asked for it.''

"Then everything went into time compression and I saw it in slow motion.

"I had six feet to cover and I could see his trigger finger squeezing. I grabbed his left arm to pull the gun away and put my gun right behind his ear and fired.''

Person lived. "God didn't want him," McKinney said.

He bristles at critics who said he could have hurt others. After more than 300 hours of firearms training, he says, "I didn't take a shot from across the room."

He has no doubts about his decision. "I did not shoot him in anger."

The second robber ran into a laundry next door and McKinney covered the door until police arrived and found DeMeico Hester, 18, Walnut Hills, hiding in a vent.

"That law about guns in a bar sure didn't stop those guys," he said.

McKinney says he will move back into the neighborhood. "I have to," he said. "How many times can you move before you have to make a stand?"

He says he's no hero. To the people who were in Junker's, he's close enough.

E-mail or call 768-8301.

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