Man held hostage in credit union 2 years ago recalls his brush with death

Sebring attack puts active shooter, hostage situations in spotlight

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The attack on Wednesday at the SunTrust Bank in Sebring has once again brought active shooter situations into the spotlight, bringing up the question: What should people do in a scenario like that?

News4Jax spoke with a safety expert and a former bank teller who was taken hostage two years ago. 

In December 2016, according to police, a man walked into a Northwest Jacksonville credit union and took more than a dozen people hostage. They all got out alive, but they know it could have ended differently.

One of those hostages, Anthony Coy, wasn't surprised by what happened in Sebring.

"There’s really no rhyme or reason, no specific place you can be. It can really happen anywhere," he said.

Coy was working as a teller at the Community First Credit Union on Edgewood Avenue on Dec. 1, 2016, when police said a gunman came in and fired a shot.

"The first thing I did was I ran and hid. And he goes on to say that if he finds anyone hiding, he was going to kill them instantly, and so I came out," said Coy, adding that he was personally threatened. "He said that I was going to be the first to die."

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Nicholas Humphrey held 13 people hostage inside the credit union for two hours until the SWAT team busted in and arrested him.

"There wasn't a police officer stationed at the credit union," Coy said. "I think (that) would definitely deter people that want to come in and do that kind of thing."

There was no armed security at the SunTrust Bank in Sebring either on Wednesday when authorities said a gunman shot and killed five women

"Some people just get completely caught off guard. They don't have a chance because of how quickly it happens," said Martin Lopez, with Red Team Safety & Security. 

Lopez is a workplace safety instructor who gives active shooter training, including for bank employees who he described as soft targets. 

"Anytime people are not aware of what's going on around them or not trained to handle any kind of emergency situation, absolutely they are a soft target," he said. 

RELATED: Soft targets: Staying safe in public places

Even though many have security measures in place, according to Lopez, banks can be dangerous for employees and customers.

"Bullet resistant glass -- says it right there. So in this case, for these tellers, if he were to come into the door, there’s nowhere for them to go," Lopez pointed out at one financial institution. "If you don't have an obvious exit, like a door, near you, can you make an exit? And people in this day, we need to be looking at these things and realizing what options do you have no matter where (you) go."

Coy knows his brush with death could have ended much worse, like what happened in Sebring.

"I would just say that I feel for you," he said. "I walk in your shoes."

Coy has since left the banking business. He said he had too many concerns about safety and he would like to see a police officer at every bank and credit union. 

If you are ever in a situation like the one in Sebring, Lopez says you should go by the federal guidelines: Run, hide, fight. Run if you can. If you can't run, then hide. And if you have no other option, fight. But no two situations are the same and, in some cases, there's nothing victims can do. 

To learn more about  Red Team Safety & Security, visit RedTeamTrainingJax.com or email info@redteamtrainingjax.com.

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