Douglas Hitchens insists he's not a hero, despite having single-handedly caught a suspect who allegedly attempted to rob his used car dealership last week.
"People keep using that word and I wish they would stop," the 50-year-old owner of Hitchens Auto Sales said. "It wasn't anything that I set out to do. I was just reacting off of pure adrenaline."
Hitchens said he was in the auto shop about 2:45 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 1, when he first noticed the man getting out of a car that had pulled onto the shoulder of Seashore Highway.
As the car drove off, the man began walking across the gravel lot toward the sales office, which is separated from the auto shop by only by a few black plastic sheets.
"I figured he was coming in to make a payment or something," Hitchens said. "I didn't really pay it much attention because that kind of thing happens a lot."
As expected, the man entered the sales office, where Hitchens' lone employee, a 54-year-old woman who has asked not to be identified, was doing title work.
"Once he came in, I could hear him say 'Give me all the money you have,' and at first I thought it was joke," Hitchens said. "When I heard her reaction, I knew it wasn't a joke no more."
According to state police, Aaron R. Jefferson, a 27-year-old Millsboro resident, pointed a handgun in the woman's face while demanding cash.
She then began to scream, prompting Jefferson to tuck the gun into his waistband before attempting to flee, police said.
"I have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, so when I heard what was going on, I ran to my truck to grab my gun," Hitchens said.
There was only one problem.
"She had taken my truck to the bank earlier that day and locked it when she came back," he said. "She still had the keys in her purse, so I looked around and the only thing I could find was a 3-foot long piece of galvanized pipe, so I grabbed that and ran around to the front door."
As Jefferson exited the front door, Hitchens grabbed him, threw him to the ground and held him there until police arrived.
"I dared him to get up as I held the pipe to his neck and took the gun off of his hip," Hitchens said. "I think I just caught him off guard, but once he was down, he kind of gave up because he knew he was done."
Jefferson was later charged with attempted robbery, possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Page 2 of 2 - As of last week, he was being held at the Sussex Correctional Institution on a $120,100 cash bond, police said.
Hitchens said he didn't have time to think about what he was doing while in the moment. But in the ensuing days, he has thought long and hard about how things could have turned out.
"It was a big gun and if he had pulled the trigger, there is no way she would have survived," he said. "The police told me he had [a bullet] in the chamber and a full clip so he wasn't playing games when he came in here. The whole thing has just made an emotional mess out of her."
But, Hitchens, who opened the auto shop in May, said he wasn't in a frame of mind to just roll over.
"It's been a tough couple of months for us since we opened, and there was no way I was going let someone come in here and take the money we've worked so hard for," he said. "It just goes to show you that you never know what's going to walk in your door. Still, I can tell you it was the kind of Monday I hope we never see again."