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Lessons we can all take away from hero who saved Arizona trooper’s life

Thomas Yoxall, the man who fatally shot a suspect beating an Arizona state trooper, explains how he killed Leonard Pennelas-Escobar who was beating Trooper Edward Andersson "in a savage way", during a news conference at the Department of Public Safety, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Tuesday afternoon, we were finally introduced to the hero that saved the life of an Arizona Department of Public Safety on Interstate 10 a couple of weeks ago.

I’m sure that, like me, you were expecting somebody straight out of central casting for a role as a member of Seal Team Six, a stereotypical G.I. Joe.

What we got was a young man with a baseball cap, giant holes in his ears and neck tattoos. I’m sure you were just as shocked as I was.

This story has quite a few lessons for us.

First, never judge a book by its cover. Heroism comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, creeds and, yes, degrees of body art. I know so many (myself included) that would judge this man immediately by his appearance and never think he was a hero.

We should all run ourselves through that test — be honest with ourselves — and hopefully grow.

I mentioned when covering the story as it broke on air that Thomas Yoxall HAD to have had some sort of military, police or combat training.

Nope.

Yoxall did what every responsible gun owner should do: he practiced.

No, it is not enough to simply carry a sidearm or keep a firearm locked up next to your bed and expect to be safe. This takes practice and drills, just like those for a fire.

But when the rubber meets the road, do you have what it takes to step up and save a life or protect your home? The truth is no one knows.

You see, in my mind, Yoxall is a very special person. I carry a sidearm. I have a concealed carry license. I am 90 percent sure that I will answer the call if need be.

Yes, 90 percent sure.

I think there’s at least 10 percent of me that wonders if I could do what this brave young man did? I would like to think so. I have put in the practice and range time but, if I am honest with myself, I just don’t know until I am in that situation.

The X-factor is if I have my family with me or not. If so, I would hit the gas and get away from there as fast as possible. Just having a firearm does not mean that you should want to use that firearm. It should ALWAYS be a last resort.

Next, Yoxall was lucky! Yes, lucky. The incident happened at 4:20 a.m. Visibility was low — at best. This was all happening by the light of the moon and passing traffic.

Yoxall was acting on the assumption that the suspect was acting alone and it was that lone suspect that shot the officer. There could have been one or several other bad guys hiding in the darkness. The officer could have been shot by someone with a gun now pointing at our hero.

He was lucky. And we are all glad that he was.

Finally, I was glad to see that Yoxall was emotional. Please remember, he has taken a life. I know, it was the bad guy, but it was a human being. The vast majority of firearms carriers will NEVER know what that feels like and will never have to live with the psychological burden that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

The bottom line is that it just doesn’t happen in real life like it does in the movies. This situation played out just about as perfectly as possible.

If you own a firearm, please take a firearms safety course, a CCW course and drill regularly. If you are considering owning a firearm for personal protection, do the same.

Owning a firearm is our constitutionally protected right but it is also a huge responsibility. We should all take that responsibility as serious as our state’s new hero, Thomas Yoxall.

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