Forced to shoot: Valley widow talks about life or death decision - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Forced to shoot: Valley widow talks about life or death decision

Cindy Bulk was forced to open fire on an intruder but suffered PTSD from it. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Cindy Bulk was forced to open fire on an intruder but suffered PTSD from it. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Nothing really prepares you, unless you have military or law enforcement training, for shooting at a person, said Phoenix Police Sgt. Alan Pfohl. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Nothing really prepares you, unless you have military or law enforcement training, for shooting at a person, said Phoenix Police Sgt. Alan Pfohl. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Bulk's husband who taught her how to shoot had just passed away four months before the break-in. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Bulk's husband who taught her how to shoot had just passed away four months before the break-in. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Before being sentenced to a year in prison and four years probation, Michael Lewis said he thought the home was abandoned. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Before being sentenced to a year in prison and four years probation, Michael Lewis said he thought the home was abandoned. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV) -

A Valley widow is talking for the very first time about how she grabbed her gun and survived a brutal beating.

She also talked about how pulling the trigger saved her life but also stole something from her.

While about one in three people has a gun in the home, most are never put in the position to have to use it to save themselves.

Three years ago this week, Cindy Bulk survived being badly beaten but had to recover from some unexpected trauma from pulling the trigger.

You can hear the panic in her voice on the 911 call telling the dispatcher, “Please, someone's trying to get in my house! I have a gun in my hands, I’m terrified!”

"I just knew he was going to come in the house," Bulk said.

That early morning three years ago, still vivid when Michael Lewis, homeless and high on meth, broke into her home.

She said she remembers hearing Lewis work his way around the house, checking the windows and doors before jumping the wall and breaking through the sliding glass door.

"I seriously went into pure panic mode, and all I could think was hide,”

[SPECIAL SECTION: Power of 2: Empowering you to be safe]

Bulk said. "I didn't even have the comprehension to even think about going out the front door."

She hid in the bathroom.

"Gun in my right hand, phone in my left. I was just leaning up against the wall as far back towards the shower as I could get,” Bulk said.

As soon as Lewis saw her, she said he just went into a screaming rage and came after her.

“And he just threw one punch after the other after the other with both hands. He was beating my head on the towel bar and then put me over backwards in the bathtub,” Bulk said. “I knew if he got me down in the bathtub it was over!”

“Nothing really prepares you, unless you have military or law enforcement training, for shooting at a person,” said Phoenix Police Sgt. Alan Pfohl.

He says even gun enthusiasts usually only shoot when hunting or aiming at targets at the range.

“Because it’s not normal to point a weapon at someone and potentially take their life. There's always the trauma that somebody will deal with after the incident,” Pfohl said.

"I realized that this was a kid,” Bulk said.

She shot Lewis in the stomach.

And while it may have saved her life, it changed it too.

“I'm thinking, ‘What did I do?’ And the guilt kicks in, like, ‘I can't believe I just shot another human being!'” Bulk said. “That was probably the hardest part for me of the whole situation was knowing that, that I just shot a child.”

Lewis was 21 years old, just a couple years younger than Bulk’s own son.

"The normal inclination is to push these experiences down and not think about them,” said licensed professional counselor Cheryl Smith.

She says it's common for victims of violent crimes to shut down to cope.

"My eyes were black. I had a big cut across my nose. I had a tooth knocked loose, bruises on my leg and everything,” Bulk said.

She spent eight days in the hospital, three in ICU, and nearly a year in a wheelchair with chronic, debilitating nerve damage.

And more pain you couldn't see persisted well beyond the healing bruises.

“I went through a horrible situation and lived through it, but I stopped living inside,” Bulk said.

She went through PTSD counseling for more than a year.

"The most important thing is to recognize what is happening so that you can get over it,” Smith said.

"It just depends on what triggers the memory,” Sgt. Pfhol said.

He said in cases like this, many victims move.

Bulk couldn't.

Not just because she couldn't afford it.

“Because this is all the memories that I have of my husband,” Bulk said.

Her husband who taught her how to shoot had just died four months before the break-in.

Bulk said she wasn't about to be robbed of those memories shared here with him too.

As for the gun, she doesn't own it anymore, she says. She didn't want to use it but doesn't regret it.

“I'm glad I had it because there's absolutely no doubt in my mind he would have killed me. He would have killed me,” Bulk said.

Before being sentenced to a year in prison and four years probation, Lewis said he thought the home was abandoned.

“When he turned around and looked at me in that courtroom and said, ‘I’m sorry, it wasn't me that day,’" Bulk said. "I just wanted to look at him and say, ‘Well it sure was me!'” Bulk said.

For a while after getting out of jail, Lewis made his monthly restitution payments, then without explanation, simply stopped, not even making good on the measly $458 the court awarded Bulk for her broken door.

She's moving on and is doing much better today and wants others to know, you can overcome the burden and trauma of being forced to make a life or death decision

"If I could help just one person by what I went through, I would say, 'Get help! Don't wait until it’s too late. Get Help!'” Bulk said.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Nicole CritesNicole Crites anchors "Good Evening Arizona" weeknights 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m. on 3TV with Brandon Lee.

Click to learn more about Nicole.

Nicole Crites

The two- time Emmy award winner has been telling stories about Valley newsmakers and trends for more than a decade. Before joining 3TV's "Good Evening Arizona" team, she was the morning news anchor at KPHO-TV in Phoenix.

Nicole loves meeting new people every day and finding ways to bring context to news unfolding in our community and our world.

A wife and mother of two little ones, Nicole is always exploring Arizona to uncover exciting adventures to share. She grew up in a big family, one of six kids in Tucson.

She graduated from the University of Arizona. Work and early internships took her from Manhattan to Spokane, WA, back to Arizona, where she and her high school sweetheart settled to start a family.

Nicole loves to read and keep busy with community service and crafts, like quilting baby blankets, something her mom taught her in elementary school.  

Nicole's passion for storytelling and helping others is why she got into journalism.

She won an Emmy for her field anchoring of the deadly Tucson shooting and assignation attempt of then Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and another for her KPHO "Keeping the Promise" series on military struggles and success profiles.

She is an active board member for the nonprofit, Military Assistance Mission, supporting our Arizona military, their families and wounded warriors.

She believes everyone has a story and says the most interesting people sh ha's interviewed weren't the actors or politicians who've been guests on the show over the years, but the "ordinary" people you'd never guess have overcome extreme odds and are doing extraordinary things every day

If you have a story you’d like to share with Nicole, click here to email her.

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