A Marine veteran was awarded a rare medal for noncombat bravery on Saturday for disarming a disgruntled employee in a workplace tragedy that occurred more than 25 years ago.
The Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the nation’s highest award for noncombat bravery, was awarded to Cpl. Michael Hainline for risking his own life to disarm a co-worker who had just killed two employees at a plastic manufacturing plant in Macomb, Illinois.
Hainline had “wrestled the weapon away from (the shooter), effectively ending the murderous rampage,” his award citation reads.
The then-corporal had been on terminal leave from the Corps, working out of a hometown plant on September 19, 1989, when “a guy walked past us and he was holding a revolver with a six-inch barrel,” Hainline told Marine Corps Times Monday.
Hainline had brushed off the first loud bangs he heard, thinking it was machinery or pallets hitting the ground.
But in reality, an employee named Fred Hopkins had just gunned down another co-worker, Pamela Buce.
Unaware a young woman just had been shot and killed, Hainline witnessed Hopkins moving quickly for the front office. Hopkins raised his .357 Colt revolver and shot at another co-worker, Jim Cobb, Hainline recounted.
But the shooter had missed, and had hit a filing cabinet behind Cobb.
Hainline, still not comprehending the gravity of the situation, initially had thought it was nothing more than a “sick joke,” he said.
Hopkins pulled the trigger again, but this time Cobb fell to the ground. The shooter then stood over his injured co-worker and shot him in the head, according to Hainline.
As Hopkins tried to reload, Hainline and other employees, including a former Navy seabee, tackled the shooter.
“These are all great people and they didn’t have to do what they did,” Hainline said.
The corporal had provided first aid to the mortally wounded Cobb, but his injuries were far too severe.
“I was a basic infantry guy and had basic first aid skills,” Haineline explained. “I would have done anything for a Navy corpsman that day.”
The shooter had been restrained in a chair, but suddenly pulled a knife and attempted to flee.
Hainline followed him to the parking lot.
“The description of the gunman and getaway vehicle he gave to police helped them capture the gunman,” his citation states.
It took more than 25 years for Hainline to be recognized for his heroism that day.
The delayed valor was due in part to the chaos of his unit’s return from a tragic overseas deployment during a training incident in South Korea, Hainline believes.
Assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, before punching out on terminal leave in August 1989, Hainline’s unit had just wrapped up a deployment to Okinawa, Japan, and Korea.
But during that stint in Korea, a CH-53 Sea Stallion carrying 37 Marines crashed on March 20, 1989, killing 22, according to a report from Associated Press that day.
Roughly 15 Marines were injured and transported to the amphibious assault ship Belleau Wood, AP reported.
“When we came back it was a very somber experience because we didn’t bring everybody back,” Hainline said. “Morale was really down.”
Hainline had contacted his first sergeant within a day of the shooting incident. The first sergeant had praised him for his actions and said he would pass the information onto the command, but nothing came of it.
It was years later, when Hainline began reconnecting with former Marines friends on social media, it was brought to his attention that his actions might merit the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.
Hainline received the award at a ceremony presided over by Marine Col. Tomas Savage and held at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, on Saturday. Hainline’s former commanding officer awarded the medal.
“Training takes over and you act,” Hainline told Marine Corps Times about his actions in thwarting a shooter.