Christopher Kaufmann was standing at the register of Darryl's Car Audio on Union Road on the afternoon of Nov. 14 when he heard the sound that he thought was a tire popping.
Then he heard it again. And again.
He looked out the window and saw in the Dollar General parking lot across the street a man in camouflage firing a high-powered rifle toward the bargain store.
In the moments that followed, Kaufmann, his boss Mark Pinnavaia and Cheektowaga Police Lt. Anthony Filipski would each play a role in capturing the gunman – and quite possibly helping avert a mass shooting. Before opening fire, the gunman, identified by law enforcement authorities as Travis J. Green of Cheektowaga, allegedly punched two Dollar General Customers and went back to his vehicle, where police said he had two high-powered rifles and 850 rounds of ammunition. Police said he also shot one of the customers in the shoulder.
The three men recounted the bizarre encounter for The News:
In a state of panic, Kaufmann yelled for someone to call the cops and when he realized he was right by the phone, he picked it up and dialed 911.
At the same time, Pinnavaia came out of his office, saw the gunman, grabbed his keys and cellphone and ran out to his Ford Focus parked outside.
His initial plan was to keep his eyes on the shooter until police arrived. "Just to be the best observer I could," Pinnavaia said.
Green was acting erratically. He kept throwing his gun down and then picked it back up.
Pinnavaia had his car running when he saw Green put his weapon down. "And then I went after him with the car," Pinnavaia said. Green jumped up, stepped down on the hood of Pinnavaia's car and kept running.
Pinnavaia got out of his car and he and Kaufmann ran after Green.
Filipski drove up to the scene when he spotted Green at the end of Union Road. Filipski dove partway over a guard rail and grabbed Green, who police said was wearing a bullet-proof vest.
"It is a miracle that I'm not at this podium reading off the names of the dead," Cheektowaga Police Chief David Zack said that night.
Green was charged with attempted murder, attempted assault, criminal possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment and remains at the Erie County Holding Center.
Story topics: Outstanding Citizens