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Robbery victim (a U.S. Marine) plugs bullet holes with fingers

December 30, 2011 |  1:32 pm

Lt. Col. Karl Trenker was shot in an attempted robbery.
When a U.S. Marine attempting to make a Craigslist sale was robbed in a south Florida apartment complex last week, he did what he was trained to do: He gave chase until he was shot, then he plugged the bullet wounds with his fingers.

"I'm a Marine and I'm not going to run from a fight," Lt. Col Karl Trenker told the Associated Press during a Friday news conference at North Broward Medical Center. He was treated there after the Dec. 21 shooting.

"You wouldn't want a Marine to run from a fight. Call me crazy, call me stupid. I got shot once and it just angered me more. I wanted to get this guy. I got shot twice, and I re-evaluated that decision. I decided I need to stay alive."

Trenker, 48, benefited from his military background -- 29 years as a Marine, including tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq -- that investigators said likely saved his life.

At Friday's news conference, Trenker explained the events behind the shooting. His fiancee had posted an ad on Craigslist to sell a man's gold chain necklace and, when a would-be buyer responded, Trenker offered to make the exchange out of concern for her safety.

On the afternoon of Dec. 21, Trenker met the would-be buyer, who identified himself as "Galven," and the man's friend at an apartment complex in Miramar, Fla., about 20 miles north of Miami.

When Trenker showed the man the necklace, he later told Miami's WPLG-TV, the man "just picked it up, looked at it and then just started running."

"I said, 'Listen, we can just drop this now. You set that thing on the ground, walk away, we're done. Police are going to be on their way in a minute," Trenker said.

Trenker pursued the pair for several blocks before one of the men turned and allegedly fired several shots at him, a Broward County Sheriff's spokeswoman told The Times.

Four of Trenker's seven children were in his car nearby and witnessed the alleged robbery and the chase, but not the shooting, Broward County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Dani Moschella told The Times.

Trenker said he felt the shots, which doctors said came from a .22-caliber gun, but he wasn't sure how many times he had been hit.

"I felt the one go into my chest and then one through my abdomen," Trenker told WPLG-TV. "I put my finger in the bullet holes, the big ones, and then I ran back to the car and I made sure the kids were OK and I told them, 'Listen, Dad's been shot. There's an ambulance already on the way."

Trenker told reporters he was amazed that, after recently returning unharmed from a tour of duty in Iraq, he would be injured at home.

"I don't know how that they can put so little value on life," he told WPLG-TV.

Trenker was hit three or four times and shot at four or five times, Moschella said.

Moschella emphasized that robbery victims should not try to pursue thieves themselves.

“Don’t chase them -- call 911 immediately and let law enforcement handle it; gather detail to be a good witness," she said.

Moschella noted that local authorities investigated another recent Craigslist robbery in which a man met potential buyers at a local casino, made the sale, only to be robbed later after the potential buyers followed him home.

“If you are showing up somewhere with your valuables, you are going to be a target,” Moschella said.

Investigators arrested three suspects within hours of the robbery, she said.

Jeff Steele, 20, and James Flounory, 20, were each charged with one count of attempted murder and two counts of robbery with a firearm, she said. A third suspect, Andre Gayle, 20, was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and possession of marijuana. He's accused of hiding the gun after the incident, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Flounory and Steele are in jail without bond, and Gayle is out of custody, she said.

Trenker was released from the hospital Friday, and although he will be left with one slug lodged in his pelvis, he is expected to make a full recovery, Dr. Igor Nichiporenko told the Associated Press.

“He’s very lucky. He could have been killed," Moschella said. "Anyone else in that situation may have been killed. His first aid and good physical condition helped him."


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Photo: Lt. Col. Karl Trenker, 48, of the U.S. Marine Corps, center, explains how he plugged up bullet holes with his fingers after being shot during an attempted robbery. His fiancee, Tanya Saiz, is at left; Dr. Igor Nichiporenko is at right. Credit: Lynne Sladky/Associated Press