Christopher Mark Heben said it felt as though he'd been kicked in the gut by a mule when he was shot in a Montrose, Ohio, parking lot, but his Navy SEAL training quickly kicked in.
The Granger Township, Ohio, man is recovering from a gunshot wound to the stomach after he was shot Friday outside the Mustard Seed Market in Bath Township.
“It was as if someone folded you in half,” Heben, 44, said Wednesday. He was released Tuesday from Akron General Medical Center.
Heben, who served as a SEAL from 1996 to 2006 and had multiple overseas deployments including in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, said he went to Montrose around dinnertime to buy food for a birthday party when he got into a verbal fight with another motorist.
The argument, he said, started after a car backed into him as he walked in the parking lot.
He said he exchanged words with the car’s driver.
“I said, ‘Dude, you almost [expletive] ran me over — you need to pay attention to what you are doing,’” Heben said he told the man.
The driver, Heben said, countered that he was the one who needed to pay attention.
After exchanging a few more words, Heben said, he started to walk to the store when he remembered that he left his wallet in his truck.
A second confrontation ensued when Heben returned to his truck.
The driver, Heben said, told him, “You got a big mouth white boy. You need to learn some [expletive] respect.”
Heben said he then told the driver: “Look dude, in my world, you have to earn respect” and offered to “help him out right now.”
When the driver turned to a passenger in the front seat, Heben said, his SEAL instincts told him to “blade” and turn so the front of his body was not exposed.
In an instance, he was bent over in pain.
“I felt like a mule kick to my stomach,” he said.
Heben said his SEAL instincts kicked in, and he gathered himself and jumped into his truck to catch up with the car.
“They cruised out, and I got in my car as quick as I can,” he said.
After the two cars left the parking lot and headed north on Cleveland-Massillon Road, Heben realized he was bleeding and put a finger in what he believed to be a bullet hole in his lower abdomen.
Heben said he began sweating and his vision became blurry.
“I go from seeing stars to looking like I am looking through a lava lamp into a kaleidoscope and obviously I am going into shock,” he said.
He realized he could not continue to chase the car and decided he needed to seek help.
“I am making these microsecond calculations,” he said.
Heben said he does have a concealed-carry permit and did have a gun in his truck. He said he made his way to the Bath Township police and fire departments on Cleveland-Massillon Road.
He said doctors removed a metal object from his stomach, but he did not know what type of bullet it was.
He said had he been wounded more seriously, he probably would have called 911 instead of chasing the shooter.
“I was adrenaline fueled and pissed off, and I was definitely on the hunt,” he said.
He said he wanted to at least get a license plate number, which he did not get, but did manage to get a description of the car, a gray low-profile sports car with tinted windows and a raised spoiler on the back.
Heben’s Facebook page, that has more than 19,000 likes, blew up over the weekend when news of the incident was posted.
“Just wanted to deliver a quick and heartfelt video ‘THANK YOU,’ to everyone, for all the prayers and well wishes,” Heben wrote on his page. “Your messages have been a blessing to me.”
Hundreds of people, including those from the Navy SEAL community, posted support for Heben, who is the father of one son and recently began to serve as a spokesman for the Montrose Auto Group and is president and founder of the INVICTVS Group.
He has been featured as a special operations expert in hundreds of news interviews over the years and is currently working on an album called The Patriot Project.
After he left the Navy, he said he worked for the military contractor Blackwater.
“I am an aggressive guy by nature,” said Heben, who grew up in suburban Cleveland. “My absolute thought was I am going to go get these guys and at the very least get a plate or a better description.”
Bath Township Chief Michael McNeely said the department has been reviewing security videos from the plaza and have received about a dozen tips. Anyone who may have information about the incident is asked to call 330-666-3736 or email Detective Dan Lance at email@example.com.