Curiosity got the better of Martin Gibson. A clamorous argument in a neighboring apartment lured him to the peephole in his front door. When the argument appeared to be over, and when Gibson began to turn away, there came the gunshot.
Gibson recognized the sound immediately. He moved away, crouched down and looked back to find a bullet hole in his door. “Close call,” he figured.
But there was no hole in the wall behind the door and no bullet on the floor. There was, however, blood saturating his pajama pants. At first Gibson thought the bullet had grazed him.
He was wrong.
“It went into the meat of my thigh there, right into the inner thigh,” he said days later.
Gibson, a 33-year-old personal trainer, is someone who regularly stacks 225 pounds of weight onto his shoulders for squats, so when he says the bullet went right into “the meat” of his thigh, he means it.
Phillip Howard, 28, of Lawrence, was eventually charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault in connection with the Jan. 18 incident at the Peppertree Apartment complex. Howard had his first appearance in Douglas County court Tuesday and has a preliminary hearing set for Feb. 18.
Nearly two weeks after the incident, and days after his thigh became bullet-free, Gibson recalled the events that put him in the crosshairs of a stray slug.
“I was lucky,” Gibson said, with nonchalance and a light Texas accent. “The bullet could have come through anywhere in the apartment, could’ve come through any of the walls, could’ve hit me anywhere, could’ve hit my girlfriend. It turned out all right.”
According to Gibson, sometime around 9:30 p.m. he and his girlfriend, Catelyn, heard someone banging on a door so loudly they weren’t sure if it was their door or a neighbor’s. Gibson paused the movie they were watching and, through the front door’s peephole, saw three people rapping on the door directly across the hall.
He shrugged it off and walked away, but “two minutes later, you hear the door open and a bunch of yelling and screaming.” So he walked back to the peephole to make sure nothing would spill over and affect his apartment.
The argument appeared to be over as soon as it began, with the three visitors on their way out.
“As far as I could see it was a domestic dispute that was over, and I stepped away from the door to go grab my tea out of the microwave, and that’s when I heard the shot,” he said. “Right off the bat I knew it was an accident, I knew no one was coming after us. It felt pretty safe; we just got away from our walls.”
“From there I stayed relatively calm,” he said. “I wasn’t really in panic mode.”
As Catelyn phoned emergency responders, Gibson worked his way into a pair of shorts for the upcoming ambulance ride and settled onto his living room floor. He eventually took over the phone and told emergency dispatchers that he wasn’t sure if a main artery had been hit.
“At that point in time I didn’t know what was going to happen, but it already happened, so I was hoping for the best,” he said.
Responders appeared within 10 minutes, he said, but a brief standoff ensued. Gibson said law enforcement couldn’t be sure of the shooter’s intentions, which delayed their entrance. In the meantime, Gibson was able to grab the police’s attention through a window.
An officer then jumped a fence and entered the apartment through a sliding patio door. Soon after, Gibson’s first ambulance ride began.
In went all the intravenous tubes and injections. To keep calm, he cracked jokes.
“Hey, I really started doing a dedicated leg routine and this is really going to mess me up,” he said.
Eventually it became clear his life was not in danger. The bullet had missed his arteries. He took a week off from work and was on his feet after a few days, though fatigue wore him down. Having the bullet cut out less than two weeks later “immediately” made things better.
Gibson expects to return to the level of fitness he had before the shooting by this time next year. And he doesn’t expect the incident to weigh on him mentally in the years to come.
Save for one small thing: Walking from the living room to the kitchen, he tends to walk faster past his door.