TUPELO, Miss. -- Just another day waiting on a train at Crosstown on Gloster Street turned into a community calling Randy Gregory a hero for helping save a wounded officer's life.
An gunman around 3:15 p.m. Monday opened fire on two Tupelo police officers after an armed robbery at BancorpSouth on South Gloster Street, killing Sgt. Kevin "Gale" Stauffer, 38, and injuring patrolman Joseph Maher, 26, who remains hospitalized.
Gregory, who was stopped behind a squad car in traffic, saw the shooting and immediately ran to the police car radio, saying "officer down" to 911 dispatchers.
The 54-year-old Pontotoc man believes a miracle prevented more people from suffering injuries and calls the officers the real heroes.
"They did a great job yesterday. These guys did all they could do to protect us," he said. "I believe in my heart they saved a lot of people yesterday. They don't need to be forgotten."
Gregory calls law enforcement officers the true heroes, downplaying critical time he saved emergency medical staff to arrive and treat the men; however, Tupelo police chief Bart Aguirre said the modest man's efforts contributed significantly, possibly saving Maher's life.
"I'd like to believe it did," Aguirre said. "It was a race against time."
Gregory said as traffic halted he noticed the officers getting out and yelling, "Get back in the car! Get back in the car!"
Then he saw an officer got out of his car with an assault rifle and the other, about five car lengths away, got out with a handgun, and then "bam, bam, bam, bam, bam."
He said gunfire filled the air, and it was the officers making sure people stayed in their cars that saved lives.
"Those police officers were more concerned about the safety for others than themselves," Gregory said. "They really did what they could to make sure the public was safe before apprehending anybody. It is a wonder no civilians were even hurt in this. There was a lot of shooting going on fast."
Gregory said the incident lasted just seconds, "but it seemed like forever."
"It just really shook me up," he said. "Just being right there, and especially with all the people there right beside it. Those people were really lucky."
Gregory, a Lane Furniture employee who has worked part-time for law enforcement in Pontotoc County, said he reacted from instinct. He knew the patrol car's radio location and how to use it.
He said into the radio, "We've got two officers down and shot and I need help now," and 10 seconds later repeated his message. Dispatchers told him, "Help is on the way."
"I didn't even know where the shooters were," he said about running to the squad car. "Cars were going everywhere, and I didn't have a clue if the shooters left."
Gregory said he was in the right place at the right time to help and wanted immediate help for the shot officers.
"It was the quickest, slowest 10 seconds of my life. A lot of good people, that even though they were in danger, helped. I would have done it for anybody."
Copyright 2013 - Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo
McClatchy-Tribune News Service