KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The off-duty KCK police officer credited with saving lives when a gunman entered the Lenexa Costco last month is telling his story for the first time.
Capt. Michael Howell was off-duty Nov. 26, shopping at Costco, when 58-year-old Ronald Hunt walked into the store with a gun. Howell wasn't wearing his vest, had no back-up, was all by himself and risked his life to save so many others.
Howell said he was standing near the registers when Hunt walked in, threatening to kill people.
"When a large crowd of people just started running by me, you know, moms and dads grabbing their kids and the older people who could not move as fast as the younger ones,” that's when Howell said he knew something was wrong, he said.
One of those people running by told Howell there was man with a gun, and as everyone else was running away from the danger, Howell ran towards it.
"I made it about half way through the store basically to the center of the big aisles, and I could see a white male looking kind of disheveled wearing a camouflage jacket waving a large revolver,” Howell said. “I heard him say three different times, 'I am an off duty U.S. Marshal, and I am here to kill people.'"
Feeling like time had stopped, Howell began sneaking around store displays to get behind Hunt, who was walking towards the shoppers trying to get away. Howell followed Hunt until he turned down an aisle where Hunt’s only choices were to go toward the door or toward Howell.
“I wasn't going to let him go either way," Howell said. "So once he got three steps into the aisle, I found a good position behind one of the displays and identified myself as a police officer, (said) 'drop your gun; don't move' and then when I said police the second time to repeat what I just said, he turned in my direction and pointed his revolver at me. And that is when I fired my gun at him,” Howell said about his encounter with Hunt.
Howell was emotional about what he said could have been a serious loss of life if he hadn't been there.
"You know I have done this job for 22 years," he said. "Between this and my service in the military, I have seen a lot of carnage, and the carnage I have seen is usually the innocents. And I just didn't want to have that happen if I was in the position to do something to prevent it. I feel better knowing that he didn't take any lives and that we didn't have any children that have the Christmas issue with their families. They didn't lose their mom; they didn't lose their dad. I have gotten cards from as far away as Oklahoma and other places letting me know that, 'Hey you don’t know this, I don’t know you, but my grand kids and my daughter were at that store,' which means quite a bit.”
For his heroism, Howell was gifted a lifetime membership to Costco, and he was invited to the store's Christmas party. He says his family is now a whole lot bigger.