Pastor David George didn’t think he’d ever have to use his concealed-carry gun to save lives. He certainly didn’t expect to have to stand up to an act of evil in a Walmart parking lot. It just happened that way.
On a Sunday morning in June 2018, on Father’s Day, to be precise, George, who is pastor of the Assembly of God Church in Oakville, Wash., chose to give his sermon on “The Value of MENtoring.” He ended the sermon with the words “Lord, don’t let us be content as men to just let life go by, to see the world around us burn. God, instead, help us to get involved.” A fiction writer might call that foreshadowing.
That afternoon, George drove with his family to a Walmart about 30 minutes away from his small town. He had no way of knowing that, at the same time, a man named Timothy Day had stolen a revolver and, for reasons still not completely understood, went on a crazed spree of attempted carjackings and shootings near Olympia, Wash.
According to police, Day phoned 911 around 4 p.m. and ranted about being surrounded by soldiers. He then began a rampage of reckless driving and violence. He soon attempted to carjack a family of four at a gas station and eventually collided with another driver, who fled after Day brandished his gun. After crashing, Day began accosting other drivers and shot at 16-year-old Danner Barton, who was simply driving past with his mother in the car. A bullet nicked Barton’s thumb, but Barton accelerated and escaped.
Day’s next bullet shattered the passenger window of Cody Gawura’s vehicle. A third ricocheted off Vicki Allen’s windshield and buried itself in the dashboard. When this last driver stopped, Day pulled her out at gunpoint and drove off with her car. With only two shots left, he drove to Walmart, threatening other drivers along the way. Surveillance video shows him running to the store’s sporting-goods section, shooting open an ammunition case, reloading, grabbing a fistful of rounds and exiting the store, menacing shoppers with the gun along the way.
One of those shoppers was Pastor David George.
A self-described “training junkie,” George is a father, grandfather, pastor, certified EMT, lifetime NRA member and certified range-safety officer. He was carrying a loaded Glock 19, as usual. George was there to exchange a tricycle he’d bought for his granddaughter. Hearing the sound of gunfire, he ordered his family out, then advanced to see Day run by him into the parking lot. Fearing for his family, George followed Day, as did another armed shopper, Jesse Zamora.
In the parking lot, Day attempted to carjack several drivers. He soon shot Rickey Fievez. Day then confronted Cheryl Martinez and demanded her keys at gunpoint. Martinez lied and told him they were in the car; she then hid while Day got in.
This is when security video shows George confronting and fatally shooting Day through the windshield before rendering aid to victims.
George recently sat down with America’s 1st Freedom to discuss the shooting and the lessons learned from confronting this psychotic killer.
A1F: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
George: I’m a pastor; I’ve been in the ministry for just under 30 years now. I came to Oakville about six years ago. I was a pastor for 13 years at my previous church and involved in Rotary. Oakville is a very small town. There were only two organizations to help out with: the volunteer fire department and the library. I enjoy reading, but the fire department sounded like a whole lot more fun.
A1F: When did you get into guns and concealed carry?
George: My maternal grandparents were both deputy sheriffs. My dad has always hunted. Probably a decade or so ago, I kind of transitioned from gun culture 1.0 into 2.0, the self-defense, concealed-carry kind of stuff. I’ve been carrying for a little over 10 years.
A1F: Do you carry at church?
George: At my last church, I had a state patrolman, a police officer, two deputies and a gun-store owner to help with security. I didn’t feel like I needed to carry at church. When I came to this community, we had hunters and fishermen, but not a lot of concealed-carry aficionados. After Sutherland Springs, people asked me if I was carrying on Sundays. I hadn’t been. I felt it would be awkward for some little old lady to give me a hug and wonder what that thing was. After they started asking, I started carrying on Sundays.
A1F: How do you address people of faith who oppose self-defense?
George: If someone’s conviction is pacifism, I would certainly never argue with that. But there’s kind of an overriding theme in the Bible about protecting others. I just preached on this yesterday—the idea of being a shepherd, protecting the flock. I never had any difficult moral quandary about the idea of self-defense. It’s a Biblical idea. People ask me, “How do I convince my pastor to let people carry?” I tell people, he’s the shepherd, and you have to respect that.
A1F: Would you still encourage them to carry concealed?
George: I would. I feel like we’re past the idea of the church being a sanctuary from violence. It’s pretty clear that’s not true anymore. Even in the last 20 years, there have been a lot of acts of violence directed at church congregations. If it’s not a clergy’s preference, I would certainly encourage them to make that available in their church.
A1F: Can you tell us more about the Father’s Day shooting?
George: Well, the whole time we were driving to Walmart—it was an exceptionally warm day—we saw people jumping into pools or we saw smoke from barbecues, so I asked my wife, “Why are we going to Walmart on Father’s Day?”
I was at the customer service desk when I heard two shots. And there was this really weird moment of cognitive dissonance, where you hear something, you know what it is, but the other part of your brain is arguing the context is wrong. I told the clerk, “That’s not right.” In hindsight, it’s kind of funny. The clerk just looked at me. I walked back, looking for where the shots were, really not processing it. My daughter came and said, “Dad, those were gunshots.” I said, “Yeah, I know, get out, get out.”
My wife, I learned later, was a couple of seconds behind her, but I missed her. I still to this day cannot remember seeing her. We laugh about it now; she says I looked right at her, she saw me set my jaw and knew, because I’ve told her, if there’s going to be gunplay, get away from me. My mindset wasn’t to go looking for a gun battle, but sometimes the best way to protect your family is to protect yourself. It took several seconds for people to realize what was going on, and finally they started running. I had active-shooter training. I knew I wasn’t drawing my gun or running around. I didn’t want to be mistaken for a gunman. I kept my eyes toward the direction of the gunshots. The gunman came around the corner with a gun—I knew exactly what he had when I saw it, a Ruger LCR. He was waving it around. He pointed it at me, I dove down behind the register. The weirdest thought came through my head: “This is going to hurt, but as soon as the hurt comes, you’re going to turn around and engage the guy.” But it didn’t happen, so I jumped up and saw him headed out the door.
A1F: What about the other armed citizen, Jesse Zamora?
George: Jesse met up with me at the door. He had a firearm, and he kept holding me back. He didn’t know I was armed. He had a silver Phoenix Arms .22 and was fumbling with it. He kept telling me to stay back. I thought he was a cop, but he just kept messing with the gun. Turns out he was carrying on an empty chamber. He was trying to load it and double-fed it. We went through the first set of doors to the parking lot. It was chaos: people running everywhere, peeling out, taking off. Day walked up to a car backing up and started shouting, but before he finished, he shot twice into the car. Then he headed in the direction of our car. He was headed toward my family. I told Jesse, “Okay, that’s it.”
At the time, I couldn’t remember drawing my firearm. You can see it in the video as I jog across the parking lot. I moved in a diagonal to intercept him, but he wasn’t there. There was a woman huddled behind a car, and she pointed inside it. As I moved, I noticed there was a great backstop of an SUV or a minivan behind this guy. I know this sounds weird, like I had all this time, but I didn’t.
She’d lied to him about the keys, so when I came alongside the passenger window, he was pounding the gun on the dashboard. He looked up and saw me standing there, and the gun came up. I took my first string of shots there. The gun continued to come up, so I shot a second string. I came around the vehicle, shouting at him to show me his hands, to drop the gun. He just kind of melted out of the car at that point. I saw his gun on the seat so I knew he wasn’t armed anymore, and I could see he was dying. His eyes rolled back. I’d hit him with all five shots, all center mass. I started looking for what to do next. I could hear yelling behind me: “Help my husband, please.” I realized that’s the other guy that’d been shot, so I holstered my weapon, ran over to my truck, grabbed my bag and started treating Rickey. Someone helped me get a packet of gauze on him, and another bystander, Kerri Robbins, had military medical experience and helped me hold pressure.
A1F: What happened when the police arrived?
George: So an officer arrives, rifle up, yelling at me, “Show me your hands. Where’s the gun?” I told him it’s holstered at four o’clock. He grabs the gun. I have my hands up. I tell the cop, “Hey man, I’m in the middle of treating this guy.” He lets me go back to treating Rickey, who’s rapidly declining. When medics arrive, they go to the gunman first, so we yell at them to help Rickey. We’re right across the highway from Airlift Northwest, so they took him there. There was an air show going on, but they held the air traffic so they could get him flown out. I really credit the flight nurses and medics with saving him, as he looked really bad.
So now we just kind of sat there. The officer in charge was sweating in his full kit, and he looks at me and asks, “Man, are you okay?”
I said, “I’m okay, but are you okay? Should we move to the shade?”
That’s where we did the witness statements. I wanted to be careful, since I was involved in a defensive shooting, but I kind of felt okay talking to the officers. One of them shook my hand and said, “Good job,” so I thought I’d be okay. They offered me a chaplain, and I said, “Actually, I’m a pastor.” Kerri looks up at me and says, “Is there anything you don’t do?” Eventually they shuttled me off to the police department. I asked if I should get counsel, but an officer said, “My commander told me that you’re a witness, not a suspect.” So they took my statement and let me go.
A1F: How was that first night after the shooting?
George: That night was sleepless for me. It wasn’t taking a life; I just kept going over in my head what I could have done better. If I had taken the guy on before he left the store, Rickey wouldn’t have been shot. After that, I started to calm down.
A1F: Would you have done anything differently?
George: I would have told myself to stay home! [Laughs] Given what I knew, I did everything that I should have done. People have told me that, like Esther in the Bible, I was there “for such a time as this.” But the human side of me feels more like Moses: “Pick somebody else, God!” It’s not something you want to do. But I knew that when I started carrying a gun. I don’t think there’s anything I would have done differently.
A1F: How long did it take to clear you of charges?
George: The police called me the next day and told me, as far as they were concerned, they wouldn’t be pressing charges. The prosecutor didn’t officially clear me until Thanksgiving of that year. I finally got my gun back in January.
A1F: What kind of training do you think armed citizens should pursue?
George: I think people should take the kinds of classes that teach you how to recognize that you’re not necessarily the guy hunting through the store for a shooter, that teaches you the legalities, to draw and move and shoot. And then, to give first aid, a day-long trauma-med class. If you’re going to carry something that can poke holes in people, you should carry something that can fill holes in people.
A1F: What medical supplies do you recommend?
George: My bag is a little different since I’m an EMT, but it basically has the necessary items to treat someone for the first five minutes. I have a smaller “blow-out” kit with tourniquets, HALO chest seals, SAM seals, trauma sheers, Olaes bandages, QuickClot, Celox, that sort of thing. When I go shooting, that bag goes with me. I think that’s a good idea for everybody. Definitely make sure you get reputable tourniquets, something approved by Tactical Combat Casualty Care. There’s a lot of cheap brands that have proven ineffective, and shoestrings and belts don’t work like you see on TV. Spend the extra money; get one that’s been proven effective.
A1F: How do you think being a pastor better equips you to confront life-or-death situations?
George: Oh, that’s deep. I’m not afraid to die, because I know this isn’t the end. I’m not perfect, but I’ve been redeemed, and that redemption brings me the promise of eternal life. Being prepared means not just carrying a gun, but figuring out what you’re going to do about eternity. Have you made peace with God? Said everything you want to say to your family? You don’t want to wait until the foxhole.
David Burnett is an ICU nurse based in Detroit, Mich. He holds bachelor’s degrees in business and nursing from the University of Kentucky and a law degree from the University of Akron, and is a frequent contributor to America’s 1st Freedom.