Automatic gunfire ripped into a 55-year-old armored car guard at a busy Windsor shopping center, knocking the man to the ground with three grievous wounds during a brazen daytime robbery.
Lying on the concrete sidewalk just outside of the Chase bank branch, the man had shoulder and forearm wounds. But most of the river of blood spreading over the concrete came from a 6-inch thigh gash and severed femoral artery. The man barely avoided a fourth wound when the bullet hit his holstered revolver, breaking the gun but missing the man’s hip.
That he survived that hot July afternoon is due in large part to a 70-year-old Vietnam veteran, a 16-year-old Santa Rosa High School junior, a registered nurse, a Windsor deputy and a sergeant who came together in a hastily assembled triage team during still-unfolding chaos and aftermath of the crime.
The first three to get to the man pressed on his wounds using paper towels grabbed from a nearby store. Sgt. Andy Cash then arrived with what was deemed the life-saving instrument — a tourniquet he had just started to carry in his uniform’s side pants pocket. Cash quickly pulled the belt-like device over the man’s shoe and up his leg, cinching it tight and locking it into place.
“He had just taken a class on trauma injuries and got that thing on and did it right. I think Andy Cash saved that guy’s life,” said Windsor Fire Capt. Aron Levin, whose firefighting and paramedic crew arrived after the deputies.
Cash credits the team with saving the man, but he knows the tourniquet was crucial.
That he even had it with him still surprises the sergeant. “I’m so grateful. I never thought in my wildest imagination we would be applying it so soon, while the training was so fresh.”
Law enforcement officers have arrested two men suspected of being the July 12 Windsor robbers. They are facing several charges including attempted murder of the guard.
The armed, masked robbers burst onto the scene of the Lakewood Shopping Center in the heart of east Windsor on a bustling afternoon. Their vehicle screeched up behind the armored car. Numerous shots were fired, the guard fell, and the robbers fled.
Longtime Windsor resident Mike Barbitta was carrying groceries out of Safeway next to the bank. As the robbers arrived and gunfire erupted, the 70‑year‑old retiree and military veteran ducked behind a parked pickup. He didn’t see the guard get shot, but when the men sped off he stayed to see if he could help.
“I left my groceries and ran across the street and found the guard laying on the ground,” said Barbitta, who said he keeps up basic medical training for his part-time job as a winery tour guide.
Using the paper towels, he pressed on the man’s thigh wound. “Keep breathing. You’re going to be OK. Keep talking,” Barbitta told the semiconscious man.
Barbitta was quickly joined by 16-year-old Joe Amezquita. The Santa Rosa teen is interested in law enforcement and is in the Sheriff’s Office Explorer Program. He had just arrived at the shopping center, intending to go to the bank’s ATM. The shooting happened in front of him, he said.
This story is part of our special coverage on unsung heroes of Sonoma County. To see more stories, click here.