Frank C. Max Jr. was within several feet of flying debris after two shotgun blasts crashed into his house Monday night.
Infuriated by the brazen attack, the interim chief of Cheektowaga's Sanitation Department charged out of his Red Oak Drive home ready to do battle.
As he ran out, he shouted to his wife, Donna, that someone had thrown rocks through the front living room window, though he knew better. Across the street, an elderly neighbor yelled that someone was in her back yard.
Max found no one, but an army of police and town officials soon showed up at his house to begin a search for the culprits, who remain at large.
And today, Max said it was a good thing he didn't catch whoever was responsible. "If I had caught him, I'd a-busted his skull," the 5-foot, 9 1/2 -inch, 220-pound Max said.
Max, who has been placed under police guard, believes there is a direct connection between the shooting and action he has taken against four town garbage truck drivers accused of making unauthorized pickups in return for kickbacks.
One of the workers, Anthony Terranova, was forced to resign his job and was sentenced earlier Monday in State Supreme Court.
"I knew something might happen, but not to this degree. Do you expect your house to be blown up? I heard one incredible boom. The shots were like missiles. I thought the roof had come down," he said. "We don't think the shooting was a coincidence. This was a culmination of a lot of ill will, and it's still unfolding," Max said.
He says he will carry on with reforming the department, including trimming bloated overtime paid to workers, and has a message for whoever shot at his house: "It (the shooting) is going to have the opposite effect. I'm not going to back off. I have this job, and it's to do the right thing, protect the taxpayers' money."
He added, "I just don't think we should allow terrorists and punks to intimidate us into not protecting the taxpayers' money. The people who are stealing don't have carte blanche to do whatever they want. We can't have anarchy."
It's been a rough road for Max since the investigation began, according to Cheektowaga police Capt. Thomas Rowan. "He's been constantly threatened over this action," he said.
The 46-year-old Max, who grew up on Buffalo's West Side, says he is no stranger to violence. "When I was 17, a friend of mine who I was standing near was shot in the foot." But he says he is worried for his wife and their neighbors.
Max said police have a recording of a man who telephoned him with a death threat six weeks ago. Max says he recognizes the man's voice. "Hey, these guys will never be rocket scientists," he said.
The two shots, fired shortly after 9 p.m., possibly from a 20-gauge shotgun, shattered the front picture window, and struck furniture and walls on the first and second floors of the colonial house before one exited out a back window and the other ended up in a piece of furniture in a second-floor sitting room.
"I was standing on the other side of a dresser that was hit, and there was shrapnel from it," Max said, adding that just prior to the shots, he may have walked past a window, providing a view of himself to the gunman or gunmen.
"Evidently, the police think a couple guys in a car shot and another may have been acting as a lookout," Max said. He, his wife and their dog, Benji, a Shih Tzu, were home at the time.
"They are, fortunately, uninjured," Rowan said. "It was a rather serious and significant event."
In February, Max had contacted police about possible wrongdoing involving the four garbage truck drivers. The drivers were accused of making side deals with local businesses, providing extra dumpster pickups without reporting them, so the businesses wouldn't be billed. The businesses then would give the drivers kickbacks -- either cash, store discounts or food from the establishment.
The drivers were suspended with pay in February but returned to work in April while an investigation continued.
The 52-year-old Terranova resigned from his 30-hour job as a Cheektowaga garbage truck driver on Monday and was fined $1,000 and granted a conditional discharge on his 3-month-old guilty plea to a petit larceny charge.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice John P. Lane also ordered Terranova to perform 50 hours of community service. His lawyer, Mark G. Farrell, said Terranova submitted his resignation effective Monday and worked out a $6,000 restitution deal with the town.
Farrell said Terranova is now "in pretty severe financial straits, but he had nothing to do with the shooting" at the Max house.