Why you should care
Better to learn from my mistakes than make my mistakes.
It started like the Super Bowl. Heads = bank robbery; tails = voluntary commitment to a state psychiatric institution.
Fast-forward. April 24, 2004, in a piss-ditch country town in Oklahoma. Poteau.
It felt bad; it always does. Snapping on latex gloves behind an empty car wash on Saturday morning. A few blocks from the bank. I told my wingman, Matt: “Yes, put your mask on.” No sense in heading in half-baked. We must move fast. I wove the truck through side roads and left it idling outside our lick.
Getting in and getting the money out re-ups your adrenaline. Eyes bulge. Senses heighten. You. Are. Flying. This time, however, shit was going haywire. Walking in, we held our machine guns at the low-ready position — mine a Sten 9mm, Matt’s an H&K G3 7.62 NATO — and the whole bank shut down and stared.
Get down. They stared. Get down. An old man, seated, flopped his head over onto his shoulder. Shit. Either he’s wily enough to play dead, he fainted or he actually just died. Shit. Get down.
I felt burning up and down my right leg. Fucker shot me.
When they failed to blink, AGAIN, I swung the machine gun barrel over a young man’s legs and began a quiet two-second count. They got down between one and two. Matt held that giant assault rifle and watched everyone as I ordered the manager out and scooped up keys from the counter. There, with a view of stalled drive-through deposit traffic, life took a twist. A blond bank teller with ample bosom sprawled on the floor at my feet said, “Please, she’s pregnant. Can she sit up?” She pointed.
Sure. She was far along. “My apologies. This is almost over.” I cooed the manager into obedience, and she opened the vault.
The vault was a depressingly small, and cheap, metal cabinet. But it filled two low-profile “driving” duffel bags ($274,000). I flung them over my shoulder and moved out. Sweat swimming inside the latex gloves, re-gripping the machine gun.
Stepping out of the bank first, I heard a shout: “Drop the weapon.” Looking down the scattergun’s drainpipe, I just took a long step between two cars. The shotgun boomed. Shit. One cop? Bad luck. It happens. I moved, using cars for cover. Second boom, and I felt burning up and down my right leg.
Fucker shot me. I popped up, turned and dumped about 20 rounds in his direction. He dove for cover as glass shattered in vehicles, tires popped and metal slapped with neat little holes. That’s when I saw the rest of them. Like whack-a-mole.
Gunfire all around. The cops were as confused as I was.
A quick look didn’t reveal my wingman. Dead or crawling among the cars? We couldn’t get pinned down. So I moved. Firing as I beelined for the truck. That’s when the shit really hit the fan.
Clumps of asphalt exploded around my feet. Sparks rained from a security light. Rifle reports thundered across the nightmare morning, drawing potbellied onlookers inside far-off apartment windows.
Running, hand outstretched, focused on the door handle, I barely caught the reserve deputy in my periphery. He squatted behind his white Ford Explorer. I turned to match him when the hammer struck me down first. From 18 feet away, that’s exactly what a .357 Magnum feels like in the gut.
I dropped immediately. Couldn’t crawl under the truck, or drag my weight to reach the gun, paralyzed from the gut down. They charged up, twitching, guns pointed. I took off the mask, took a deep breath, lay my face on the asphalt as rain misted overhead.
“What’s in the bag?”
“I just ran out of the bank; what do you think?”
“Is it dynamite?”
“We’d all be dead, guaranteed.”
Cuffed, they rolled me over on my wrists, and there I lay for 20 minutes bleeding out. I heard my wingman was shot, too.
All the while, various department heads tried to take command. They kept asking, Where’s the third guy? “Ain’t none,” I’d say. “Where’s the ambulance?”
Eventually, paramedics got tired of watching from the sidelines, and said, “Y’know, he’s shot, we should really take a look.” I endured as clothes were cut off, and a latex pinkie disappeared into a large exit wound in my belly. Pecker flapping as they rolled me onto the gurney. I figured, just maybe, we’ll get a move on.
Before the ambulance doors closed, however, a buzz-cut maniac threw them open, pulling himself over me. “How many of your guys are left in the bank?”
“Do you hear any shooting?”
“You got us.” It was a condescending tone, a sigh of having long suffered idiots. His face looked like a contained explosion; he ordered a youngish state trooper to ride along: “… and if he moves … shoot him in the head.”
Rocking on the gurney as they punched the gas, I managed to think. Third guy? Yeah, sure, there was. But they shouldn’t know. Head lolling side to side as the ambulance swerved through traffic, I flushed it all out of my mind. Didn’t matter now. I met the eyes of that young trooper staring down, mouth open. He spoke: “Does it hurt?”
I closed my eyes.
Endnote: Anthony Tinsman got 35 years mandatory.