"Dear Facebook peeps...here's a quick CMH FYI: I was shot in the stomach Saturday at 1700hrs in a parking lot in Akron, OH, By 3 'gang bangers' in a tinted widowed car. 9mm or .38. I had to undergo emergency surgery to remove bullet/fragmentation from my stomach and repair some holes in my small intestines. I'm ok! Im alive...I'm just shot! After I was shot, I chased them and got a good vehicle description, but no plate read....I was too far behind once I got into my truck and got after them. Then, I had to stop the chase....because I was bleeding too badly. I had one hand on wheel and with the other hand had to put fingers in the bullet hole. I drove to a Fire station/Police station for their help....Im at the hospital now, recovering and driving the nurses nuts! What else would you expect?!-CMH"
With that now deleted Facebook post (the reasons for which will become apparent shortly) in late March from Akron General Hospital, former Navy SEAL Christopher Heben jumped into headlines across the country and the world. After all, there's no more compelling story than an All-American Hero who, after being attacked in the bustling West Market Plaza in front of a Mustard Seed grocery store, hops in his Ford F-150 and chases the bad guys, ignoring the searing pain of a gunshot wound to the stomach before eventually heading to the Bath Township police station for help.
Nevermind that it was actually during rush hour on Friday and not Saturday, as Heben wrote. That was just one of the countless fungible details in Heben's fluid version of the events, which morphed with each appearance like he was in a game of telephone with himself. Those details didn't matter much early on as Heben basked in the glowing media coverage from his hospital bed.
Which is not what Heben and his camp had in mind. According to his friends and business partners, there was never a plan to release a statement or seek attention. They tell Scene Heben simply wanted to keep quiet and recover, but that all changed when rumors began circulating via text messages within the police community. Heben was scheduled to train a group of Loudonville police officers that Saturday morning and notified those officers of why he wouldn't be making it. The story, in all its unbelievable glory, eventually reached another ex-SEAL who posted well wishes on his own Facebook page for his friend Heben.
"Social media went ballistic hammering his page," said Heben's confidant and business partner Mike Lemire. "I was with him, his phone was blowing up like a Christmas tree. It was ridiculous."
To put Heben's friends and legions of fans at ease, Lemire says, they wanted to simply let people know he was alive and recuperating. Thus the upbeat Facebook post and picture of a smiling Heben in his hospital bed, tubes coming out of his nose. A simple gunshot wouldn't get this former Navy SEAL down. And the interview requests and triumphant news coverage ensued on every local television station, every local paper (except Scene), as well as Fox News and the Daily Mail in London.
Strapping, chiseled and handsome, Heben was no stranger to national cable news. For years after Navy SEALs took out Osama Bin Laden, he'd been the go-to commentator on all things SEAL and national security-related, opining on threats to America's safety and the stealthy military tactics used overseas to battle the bad guys. He was a natural — confident and chatty with an air of authority and an unquestionable resume of patriotism.
It was on display when he appeared on the syndicated Cleveland-based radio show, Rover's Morning Glory, a week after the shooting to, once again, regale his audience with his tale.
"I'm pulling up to the shopping center and I'm getting out of my car. I walk behind my car, progressing towards the store — mind you I just got a new truck so I'm parking as far away as I can.... So I'm two or three spots away from my car and this other car literally almost backs up over me. Like if I was on my cell phone doing anything other than paying attention to my surroundings, I'd have been underneath that car. So the guy continues to back up despite the fact that I just vaulted myself off the rear corner of my car... and I found myself next to his window at which time some pleasantries. It was like 'expletive, expletive, expletive, dude what's up? Expletive, expletive, watch what the expletive you're doing.'"
There are at least two guys in the car and possibly a third in the back seat. Heben then brings in the race angle.
"His retort to me was pretty similar, with a couple of references to my skin color, of course... I'm pretty non-confrontation by nature because I think the more deadly you are, the more relaxed you are in any kind of situation, so I basically non-politely excused myself from the conversation and kept going towards the store. Then I realize I didn't have my wallet, so I go back to the car, but meanwhile he kept kind of backing up in that arc and posted up about 10 feet, 15 feet on the other side of my car."
Rover asks why he'd go back after just having a confrontation.
"I'm capable of handling myself. As a matter of fact, if three guys come up to me at a bar, that first guy in inconsequential to me — I'm already looking through that dude to the other guys behind him... strike fast, strike hard, leave some bodies on the floor and get the hell out of there."
He continues: "So I'm walking back to my car, I get my wallet, and I continue back to the store and he reengages me, pulls up next to me... So he says 'Hey, you need to learn some respect, whitey, blah blah blah, you got a bigass mouth,' and all this stuff. And I said, 'You know, where I come from, respect is earned, it's not issued, and I'd be happy to give you the chance to earn that right now if you're so inclined,' or something like that. He looks to his buddy, looks back at me, and then I felt this massive impact to my left lower abdomen. Like a mule kick, took my breath away, doubled me over."
Rover leads him on: "You feel it before you even hear the gunshot?"
"Oh yeah, you figure, right, it's faster than the speed of sound, right, so it's hitting you before you even, you know. So I'm still upright and I'm pissed off, and about two seconds or less I gather myself and I see them turning the corner in front of the store, exiting the parking lot."
Rover: "So they shoot you. They fire a single shot?"
"To my knowledge. I didn't hear a shot to begin with. I didn't see a gun to begin with. The window never came down more than six inches from the top. So I saw more of the passenger than I actually did of the driver. So my first thought is I have to go after these guys. I'm pissed off, I'm still upright, and this is what I'm taught to do: pursue. So I'm behind these guys. They've got a fast car, I've got a big, lumbering truck, so I was never able to get closer than probably 75 yards, 50 yards max to them. They were just hauling ass. It was at that time I had to take a couple of assessments because I knew my health was going downhill pretty fast. I had a finger in the hole in my stomach, I was sweating..."