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Editorial: 2 heroes risked their lives to save others

It’s not the way anyone would want a day to unfold, but it’s plain that many people are alive today only because Tuesday took a dramatic turn for Mark Pinnavaia and Christopher Kaufmann. The two men stopped what might otherwise have been a massacre.

The two men were working in a buness near a Dollar General in Cheektowaga when a man started shooting into the store with a pump-action AR-15. Travis Green fired about 20 shots at the store from its parking lot, but it could easily have turned into yet another in a recent series of American shooting sprees: Police say Green was armed with two rifles and more than 850 rounds of ammunition.

No one died, and that is for a reason: Pinnavaia and Kaufmann risked their own lives to intervene. Because of their heroic action, only one person was injured, suffering a shoulder wound. That person, who remains unidentified, was treated at Erie County Medical Center and discharged.

That’s a traumatic event on its own, but it could have been far worse. As police have said, it is “safe to assume” that Green’s intent was to inflict “significant harm.”

Many more people escaped the real threat of injury or death because Pinnavaia and Kaufmann responded to the threat. Kaufmann, a manager at Darryl’s Car Audio across the street, called 911 while Pinnavaia, the audio store’s owner, got into his car and watched, at first intending simply to be “the best witness I could possibly be.”

But that wasn’t enough. He felt compelled, he said, to “do something.” He got his chance when Green put down his gun for a second time. Pinnavaia hit the gas pedal and aimed for the gunman. “I had full intentions to hit him,” he said, “if that’s what it would take to stop him.”

But Green leaped away, leaving a footprint on the hood of Pinnavaia’s Ford Focus, and then fled, running around the Dollar General toward Union Road. Pinnavaia and Kaufmann chased him. Pinnavaia got within about five feet when Green jumped a guardrail and police came into view, guns drawn. Pinnavaia wisely put his hands in the air and an officer, Lt. Anthony Filipski, tackled the suspect.

Green is now charged with felonies including attempted murder, assault, criminal use of a firearm, reckless endangerment and unlawful wearing of a body vest. He also faces a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest. He was jailed without bail.

The reasons for the shooting and the choice of the Dollar General remain uncertain. Green’s mother, Viola Green, called her son a “good kid” who was under severe stress and “just got fed up.” All those things could be true, of course. Lots of good kids get fed up when they are under terrible stress. But not many of them try to commit mass murder.

Sadly, this will not be the event that finally causes Americans, including those in Congress, to realize that this is a crisis that demands a response. So far, mass shootings have produced little more than a collective sigh and regret that nothing can be done. It’s as though Americans have been deluded into thinking they are too slow-witted or too helpless to respond in a useful and sensible way. More people will have to die, it seems, before that changes.

In the meantime, Western New Yorkers can be grateful that Pinnavaia and Kaufmann responded bravely as individuals. They say they aren’t heroes, but there’s the tipoff: That’s what they all say.

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