Mike Panther didn’t know if a gun was pointed in his direction Saturday outside the Brookshire’s grocery store in Midlothian. He did know that his own handgun was stored away next to him – and he pointed back.
Although Mike currently lives in Italy with his wife, Vickie, they used to reside in Midlothian and rode into town this past weekend to visit family. But before they went to see them, Mike first made a quick pit stop and dropped Vicki off at the grocery store. He pulled into a parking space to where he could see the building, parked his car and left it running as he checked his phone.
“Out of my peripheral vision, I see these two individuals walking across, straight at my automobile,” Mike said. “It was a younger man and woman. The young man acted like he knew me. I was looking at him, he puts his hands out and comes to the side of the automobile, says ‘Man, what’re you doing here? I haven’t seen you in so long. I can’t believe it’s you.’”
When Mike realized that he didn’t recognize the man, it was already too late.
“He grabs my right hand, shakes it and jumped into the automobile,” Mike said.
The woman, he said, ran around to the other side of the vehicle and got into the back seat behind him. The man then reached under his shirt and motioned like he had a gun.
“He told me he was going to shoot me,” Mike recalled.
Luckily, Mike’s .40 caliber handgun sat in his black bag beside him. In the tension of the moment, Mike had to make a choice, not knowing what was underneath the man’s shirt.
“He said ‘The next word out of your mouth, I’m sending you to heaven,’” Mike recalled. “I reached down, I grabbed the gun, pointed it right in his face and I said ‘Let’s go together.’”
“I couldn’t explain to you how fast he got out of my automobile at that point,” Mike said. “He jumped out that door in an instant. The girl jumps out, goes in front of the automobile and they start screaming at me.”
The suspects, he said, started yelling how Mike had a gun and he was going to kill them. But their screaming was the least of Mike’s worries.
“I was not scared whatsoever for myself,” he said. “Until I looked up and saw my wife walking toward our car. I was more scared for her because when they jumped out of the car, my wife is walking right toward these people. She does not know what in the heck was going on. I was more scared at that moment that they were going to grab her more than anything.”
The suspects avoided Vickie and entered the store. Mike directed his wife to call the police.
According to a press release, Midlothian police were dispatched to the scene at approximately 6:52 p.m. The police made contact with Mike, and he explained what had happened up until that point.
Shortly after, the suspects exited from the store on the opposite side of the building. Officers directed the suspects to stop, but they ignored the officer’s commands and kept walking away. Officers then grabbed both suspects by the arms and they were taken into custody.
“It took three or four of them to get this girl under control,” Mike said. “She went plain ballistic. Kicking, screaming, hollering, everything. She was worse than the guy.”
The suspects were later identified as Caleb Micah Jefferson, 21, and Niyah Williams, 17. They were processed in the Midlothian jail, then transferred to the Wayne McCollum Detention Center in Waxahachie. Both were charged with aggravated robbery and resisting arrest.
Mike said he felt Jefferson didn’t have a gun in his possession – that was why he didn’t shoot.
“My pistol shoots so easily. I can touch that trigger, and it’s gone,” Mike said. “It could have so easily went the other way. Then I would have a dead young man on my conscience for the rest of my life.”
Mike said as terrifying as the interaction was, it could have gone much worse.
“I was actually mad,” he said. “I was actually really kind of PO’d that these people would do something like this. Think if that was an 80-year-old grandmother or a 16-year-old girl that this happened to. That right there is what bothers me more than anything.”
Mike said he was glad he was able to defend himself but more than that he’s grateful that there wasn’t any loss of life.
“This could have went so much different,” Mike said, his voice cracking as he spoke. “It could have been so tragic. And to be truthful, I am so glad that it did not go that way.”
“I am so thankful to the Lord that this did not happen to a young person or an older person that could not protect themselves,” he said. “I am most certainly grateful that it didn’t wind up with somebody being dead - me or them.”