Terri Tippin is a four-time cancer survivor.
She broke her neck and back in a horse accident, which forced her to scrap her 30-year career as a veterinary technician.
These days, the 55-year-old works two jobs to make ends meet. It’s a one-meal-a-day life, then bills.
On Monday, when she was jumped by two men who tried to steal her purse outside of the medical marijuana facility on East Bijou Street where she works, she wasn’t about to give it up.
“I wasn’t afraid,” she said. “It was just the idea that somebody was taking my things. I worked for it. They didn’t.”
It was a mere seven seconds that has left her sleepless.
Earlier this week, when she got in her car after work, she felt alone, vulnerable as a child.
“I felt as if I was naked and standing alone in the middle of the street,” she said. “It makes me angry, that I let these guys get to me.”
After a long day of work as a “bud tender” at Rocky Mountain Miracles, Tippin was getting ready to go home about 7:30 p.m. Monday.
Because of the potential for crime — a woman was robbed a couple of weeks ago as she left the store — Tippin walked to her car on Bijou with co-worker Amanda Thompson.
A beat-up white minivan screeched to a stop next to their cars.
Thompson jumped into her car and locked the door, screaming for Tippin to do the same.
There wasn’t enough time.
Two men jumped from the van, both wielding handguns.
The first grabbed Tippin’s purse.
“Give it to me,” he demanded.
“No, you son of a ……,” Tippin responded.
He put the gun to her temple.
“Give it to me!”
“No!” Tippin said.
The second man jumped into the fray, while a frantic Thompson leaned on her car horn to attract attention.
Finally, the men wrested the purse from Tippin, jumped into the van and sped off.
She jumped into her car and followed them, planning to call 911 on her cell phone and let police know where they were headed.
Thompson headed in another direction, planning to cut them off. Tippin’s plan had a flaw. Her cell phone was in her purse.
When the van pulled into a darkened lot near a medical facility, she grudgingly gave up.
She thinks the men thought they had money from the shop. They didn’t. When the store closes, the money is put in a drop safe.
“There was just a little change in the bottom of the purse,” Tippin said. “It was just the idea of it. It was wrong. I think a lot of people need to stand up and just try. I think people are fed up.”
She may be right.
Over the last month, there has been a spate of people fighting back.
• On Jan. 16, a 74-year-old man in the parking lot of a bingo facility was attacked by three men, hit in the head with a gun and knocked down. They demanded his money. When he refused, they ran away.
• On Jan. 9, a man investigating a noise in his kitchen walked in on a man who pointed a gun at him. The resident grabbed him and shoved him into his back yard.
• The next day, a woman shopping at a Walmart store at Palmer Park and Powers boulevards was robbed in the parking lot. With a friend, she followed the man who robbed her and called police.
• Two citizens helped a Colorado Springs police officer subdue a suspect who resisted arrest in a 7-Eleven store on Jan. 6.
• Two of three men were shot Jan. 7 when they forced their way into a house on East. St. Vrain planning to steal marijuana.
Criminals, said Colorado Springs police Lt. Patricia Feese, appear to be more brazen. As a result, people are becoming more aware of crime and its consequences. She teaches criminal justice at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Colorado State University in Pueblo.
“People are thinking more about crime, and talking about what they are going to do about it,” she said. “We are getting more questions about ‘what can I do and not do to defend myself?’”
At least part of this shift, she believes, was set off by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 kids and six adults dead.
These kinds of shootings may be felt more personally in Colorado. On July 20, a dozen people were killed and 58 injured at a mass shooting at an Aurora theater. The killings at Columbine High School, too, haunt Colorado residents. On April 20, 1999, 12 students and one teacher were slain.
There is no safe haven, Feese said. Burglaries, robberies and home-invasions during the day seem routine and the adage that a good neighborhood is safe from crime isn’t true any more.
Two people — a Fort Carson soldier and his pregnant wife — were fatally shot when they came home at midday and surprised a burglar Jan. 14. On Jan. 8, Legacy Bank was robbed in the middle of the day.
“The culture is changing to more of awareness and personal safety than: “It didn’t happen in my neighborhood,” Feese said. “People used to perceive that crime happened at night, that the day is safe. That’s a myth.”
It’s not just the noise that lawmakers are making about banning weapons that’s driving people to gun stores and pushing interest in concealed weapons permits.
“I think it’s probable that a great deal of people feel personally fearful or victimized when something like Sandy Hook or Aurora happens,” said Dr. Vanessa Graf, a Colorado Springs psychotherapist. “Many people have shed tons of tears, hysterical over what happened, especially with the children.”
Victimization, she said “is a state of mind that calls in to action the need for empowerment. People want to feel empowered again.”
She sees it in her practice.
Graf said some patients have bought weapons to protect themselves. In her men’s group, one man in mid-divorce told her that he and his soon-to-be ex-wife “had a special bonding moment with their daughter when they bought her a weapon.”
“When a crime, especially a mass shooting occurs, people may rise up in terms of wanting to defend themselves,” she said. “It’s just that we get a little carried away sometimes.”
Lt. Jeff Kramer, spokesman for the El Paso County Sheriff’s office, said calls spiked about concealed weapons permits after Sandy Hook and Aurora. Last year, there were 6,784 concealed weapons permits issued in El Paso County, up from 4,514 in 2011.
NRA certified instructor Nick Hershey has seen business boom. That’s good news in terms of revenue. But he’s a little concerned.
Some people who get a concealed weapon permit “get confused. They wonder, ‘if I get a gun, am I supposed to go out and protect everybody like Batman?’ ”
“That’s a misconception,” he said. “You are not out there trying to kill someone. When I am shooting at a bad guy, it’s not like die, die, die, with an emotional connection. It’s stop, stop, stop. You should focus on protecting your life and your loved ones first.”
The recent gun-buying frenzy includes people “doing a knee-jerk response and it concerns me because there’s no moral clarity of what’s right and wrong,” Hershey said.
He doesn’t just teach mechanics of gun handling. He teaches weighing when to shoot and the morality involved when someone is faced with actually killing someone.
Moral clarity, he said, “is the meat and potatoes of self defense. It’s complex and it deserves respect. It’s hard to take a life.”
Guns, said Graf, don’t have to be the first reaction to tragedies such as Sandy Hook or Aurora. But with Colorado’s strong gun culture — there’s the military and popularity of hunting — it’s no big surprise.
“There’s a wide range of awareness about guns,” she said. “We are a big outdoor culture here in Colorado.”
She also points to media, violent video games such as first-person shooters, war games, and violent movies that she said desensitize people. Neuroscience has proven that the brain builds more connective paths to support what people allow their minds to focus on, she said.
“Gearing ourselves for it, even as kids, watching video games and violent movies on a constant basis creates neural pathways,” she said.
Two other unresolved problems that can lead to tragedy, Graf added, include bullying and untreated mental illness. She has her own method when it comes to treating patients reeling from the pain of these kinds of tragedies.
“We cry together,” Graf said. “I tell them to go hug your children and talk to them about the good things in the world and remember there’s a lot of love.”