KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Don and Debbie Pugh were just driving to work in Joplin when a gunman opened fire on their pickup as part of apparently random shootings that left six people and two dogs injured before the suspect was captured.
Rather than being bitter, the Pughs said Monday they were stunned but grateful after their ordeal on Saturday. Don, 60, suffered no permanent damage from the gunshots and Debbie had minor injuries when shrapnel hit her hand.
While treating Don, doctors found one of his heart valves was almost completely blocked. But during surgery Monday to insert a stent, surgeons decided even that wasn't necessary and said Don Pugh could be released and go home to Duquense.
"It could have been a lot worse," Don Pugh said in a telephone interview before he was released from Freeman Hospital in Joplin. "Docs said if I had ducked down one of the bullets could have hit me in the head. It's a miracle that it wasn't (worse). I'm thankful that I'm able to get around."
Police say the Pughs were shot by Tom S. Mourning II, 26, of Joplin, shortly after he shot at a van carrying members of the Immanuel Lutheran Church, wounding four people and two comfort dogs. Mourning remained jailed Monday in Jasper County on several felony counts. He also faces charges in Newton County, where parts of Saturday's events occurred. The motive for the attacks remained unclear, Joplin police Sgt. Trevor Duncan said Monday.
The trouble began just after 5 a.m. Saturday when Mourning's father told police shots had been fired in the duplex where he and his son lived. With officers in pursuit, Mourning pulled up behind the church van and started shooting, police said. After that, Mourning stopped at another intersection, where he fired five shots at the Pughs' truck, police said. He surrendered a short time later.
Don Pugh said the man started shooting after he flashed his lights because the truck didn't have its lights on.
"All of a sudden there were five shots. I pushed my wife to the floor and tried to turn around," he said. "I didn't realize at first that I'd been hit. It wasn't reality at first until it finally sunk in. It was a shocker."
By the time emergency workers got the Pughs to the hospital, Don Pugh was laughing and joking, while his wife was "a basket case," she said.
Because a piece of shrapnel hit Don Pugh in the neck, doctors performed an ultrasound, which found the blocked artery. On Monday, the surgeon determined the artery was no longer useful and another artery was compensating for it, so the stent would do no good. Pugh, who works with his wife in the health care industry, said he'll take two weeks off work and will take aspirin for the rest of his life but he is otherwise going to fully recover.
"The detective and the doctor treating me said I was a tough old bird, and I said 'Yes I am,'" he said. "Funny thing is, I spent 18 months in (Vietnam) and came home without a scratch. I do believe someone was watching out for me and I'm grateful for it."
Both the Pughs said they were not angry at the shooter and expressed concern for the other victims and the shooter's family. They also said they were deeply grateful to their doctors and law enforcement.
"We are praying for him," Debbie Pugh said. "Whatever is so troubling him in his life that caused his life to come to this, we hope he will seek out God or someone to help him straighten out his life and get the help he needs."
The driver of the church van, Kenneth Eby, was taken off a ventilator and he was improving Monday, Duncan said. One woman in the van was shot in the arm, a boy suffered a graze wound and a woman was hit by shrapnel, police said. Two comfort dogs also were hit but survived. The dogs, Louie and Jackson, have traveled to several sites of tragedies, including Joplin after the deadly 2011 tornado and to Connecticut after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.