Six months ago, Luke McDonald took two bullets in a gutsy attempt to subdue a bank robber at a Wells Fargo branch on North Division Street.
Even though he walks with a slight hobble and faces another surgery, a bone graft, he said he’d do it again.
The bank robber “was doing an illegal act, and it just went against my grain,” McDonald said recently. “It just went against everything I stand for.”
McDonald, a 45-year-old factory worker, doesn’t like to dwell.
He’s more concerned about the unfinished warehouse on his 10-acre property in Elk. It’s a project he’s been planning since before the robbery, and he’s eager to tack on the metal roof and siding before the first winter snow.
“My mentality is I’m immortal until the day I die,” McDonald said, showing off the 8-inch scar on his shoulder where a surgeon dug out fragments of a .38-caliber hollow-point bullet.
Then he pulled up his right pant leg, marveling at the scars on his shin and calf. The bullet fractured his tibia, and his fibula – a much thinner bone – snapped under his body weight, he said. “It was like: Pop! Crack!”
It was about 6 p.m. on April 28. McDonald was depositing a check at the Wells Fargo branch when a man rushed in and ordered everyone to get on their knees.
“I thought it was a joke at first,” McDonald said. “I thought, ‘We’re in a bank. That’s a dumb thing to joke about.’”
Then he spun around to see a large man wearing gloves, a ski mask and many layers of clothing.
McDonald, several bank employees and several other customers – including a young mother and her baby – followed orders. The robber wore a backpack on his chest and told the teller to stuff it with cash, he said. And the manager shouted, “Just give him the money!”
McDonald said he didn’t see a gun, but he feared he might be shot in the back of the head, execution-style. He reached for his cellphone in hopes of alerting police, but the robber saw the movement and warned him to keep still.
When the masked man darted toward the exit, McDonald leaped up and slammed him into a wall in the foyer, between two sets of double doors. A former high school wrestler, he said he tried to employ a chokehold while immobilizing one of the robber’s arms.
“He’s a big guy … a little chunkier than I expected. So I had trouble getting my arm around him,” he said. “I’ve replayed this 100 times over in my head, and I could have done it so much better.”
McDonald knew he was in trouble when the robber grabbed something from his waistband. In a matter of seconds, the gun was being pointed at his chest, he said.
“He was actually going for the kill shot,” McDonald said. “I pushed the gun into my arm.”
The robber fled after firing the second shot, but he left a crucial piece of evidence. His ski mask, containing traces of DNA, slipped off during the scuffle with McDonald.
In August, the FBI arrested Don Charles Owens, a six-time felon who was on probation and wanted by the state for a separate matter, in Edmonds, Washington. He’s awaiting trial in federal court in Spokane.
McDonald said people regularly tell him, “Well, that was dumb of you.” And bank officials routinely advise bank customers and employees to not interfere in a robbery. But he’s undeterred and said he’d try to stop a robber again. As a former Army medic and the youngest of seven brothers, he said he doesn’t go down without a fight.
“Getting down is just not my personality,” he said.
He’s also been criticized for potentially endangering the other people in the bank. But he said he minimized the risk.
“I didn’t want to get anyone else hurt, so I waited until he was near the door,” he said. “It was me and him. I was waiting until we were away from everyone.”
As Thanksgiving approaches, McDonald said he has a lot to be thankful for. A state program for crime victims has covered his medical bills and replaced nearly $15,000 in lost wages, he said. And some friends have volunteered to build that warehouse.
“I’m thankful that I’m going to have pretty much a full recovery,” he said. “I’m thankful that I didn’t leave my children and my wife.”
He anticipates going back to work, at Metal Rollforming Systems in Spokane, in January.
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