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'They were not going to be victims': Cheektowaga police hail shooting bystanders as heroes

When gunfire erupted Tuesday afternoon outside a Dollar General store, two men at a neighboring business jumped into action.

And now they're being called heroes by police.

As a man started firing a pump action firearm into the discount store at Union Road and Gardenville Parkway West, Christopher Kaufmann, a manager at Daryll's Car Audio across the street, called 911.

Mark Pinnavaia, the owner of Daryll's, grabbed his cellphone and keys and hopped into his Ford Focus in the parking lot. His initial intention, he said, was to maintain a good vantage point so he could be "the best witness that I could possibly be."

"But I felt that I had to do something," Pinnavaia said.

When he saw the gunman put down his weapon for a second time, Pinnavaia gunned his car toward him.

Travis Green

"At that point I put my car in drive and I proceeded to drive as fast as I possibly could to hit the individual," he said. "I had full intentions to hit him, if that's what it would take to stop him."

Though Pinnavaia wasn't sure how fast he was going, his compact car crossed Gardenville Parkway West and clipped the shooter — who police identified as Travis J. Green, 29 — as he leapt in the air.

"There's actually a footprint on the hood of my vehicle where he hit," he said.

Green began to run around the Dollar General building — with Pinnavaia and Kaufmann giving chase — then up towards Union Road and along the side of the road.

Pinnavaia said he was about 5 feet behind Green when they reached the roadway. When Green jumped over the guardrail, Pinnavaia saw Cheektowaga police with guns drawn.

Pinnavaia stopped and put his hands in the air. Green kept running. And that's when Cheektowaga Police Lt. Anthony Filipski tackled Green.

"They were instrumental in stopping the firing," Cheektowaga Police Chief David Zack said of Pinnavaia and Kaufmann. "They definitely intervened and stopped the threat."

Neither Pinnavaia nor Kaufmann has military backgrounds, but Pinnavaia is a member of the Erie County Sheriff's Reserve Division, which means he's received training in firearms and  defensive tactics, as well as classroom training.

Pinnavaia is not supplied a weapon as a reserve deputy and did not have a gun with him on Tuesday when the shooting started, he said.

"I wasn't going to be a victim," he said.

Despite the accolades from police and others, Pinnavaia and Kaufmann said they don't consider themselves heroes. The real heroes are the men and women in law enforcement and the military, Pinnavaia said.

"You do what you do in a situation," Kaufmann said. "I don't think it's about being a hero. It's about doing what you think you need to do. You just do it; you don't think about it. You just do it."

The common options and advice laid out by authorities for those in a situation with an active shooter is to run first, then to hide and lastly to fight.

"Some people have it in them to fight first, and I instinctively had that feeling to do whatever I could do," Pinnavaia said.

The pair also said they felt no fear.

"You act," Kaufmann said. "It's all adrenaline."

Zack, the police chief, heralded the bravery of both his officers and the two men who sprung into action.

"I don't recommend engaging with someone with an AR-15 rifle. I certainly don't recommend that," Zack said, "but just incredible bravery on the part of these individuals. They were not going to be victims. They fought back and they took this guy out. They put a stop to it. No words could describe their courage, in addition to our guys who were just as willing to run into the line of fire and take this guy out."

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