Danville shooting victim thankful his hand jammed gun during dispute over truck

Rick Cole of Danville was recuperating at home Monday after being shot Friday night while arguing with another man over work that was to be done on a truck Cole owned.
Rick Cole of Danville was recuperating at home Monday after being shot Friday night while arguing with another man over work that was to be done on a truck Cole owned. Herald-Leader

DANVILLE — Shooting victim Rick Cole is recuperating at home now, thankful to be alive.

Cole, 47, recounted Monday how he got into an argument with body-shop owner Jerry Lee Mathes over work remaining to be done on a pickup. He said the dispute Friday night led to Mathes shooting Cole in the left side, and then the two continuing to struggle over the gun.

Somehow, the web of Cole's right hand between the thumb and forefinger got caught below the .357 revolver's hammer, preventing a second shot from being fired, he said. Cole showed the scars of the square imprints where the gun hammer pressed into his skin.

"I'm just glad that it was the kind of gun that my hand got jammed there," Cole said. "I could feel Jerry trying to pump that trigger, but my hand kept it from pumping, I guess.

"It was more like a wrestling match. I was able to get him pinned against the corner of his desk so that his legs were off to the side where he couldn't stand up."

Someone at the body shop called police, and soon Danville police Capt. Jim Monroe was at the scene and took the gun from Mathes, Cole said.

"Captain Monroe saved my life," Cole said. "He knew how to get my hand out of the gun."

Mathes, 52, is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday on charges of attempted murder, possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was being held in the Boyle County jail on a in lieu of a $100,000 bond.

The origins of the disagreement date to early August, Cole said, when he signed a contract for Mathes to remodel a 1971 GMC short bed Stepside pickup. Cole's business, Danville Rental Properties on South Fourth Street, is around the corner from Jerry's Body Shop on Roy Arnold Avenue.

The truck was to be finished by Sept. 30, according to the contract. Cole said Mathes called him Friday and told him the job was done, but Cole said that when he went to get the truck, it was "running rough" and would stall repeatedly.

About 10 p.m. Friday, Mathes said he had it running, Cole recounted.

"So we took it on a 10-mile trip. It was running better, but it just kept quitting," Cole said.

The two went back to the shop. Cole said Mathes asked, "Rick, is there any way you'll pay me tonight? I owe a guy some money. I've got to have some money tonight."

Cole said he told Mathes, "Jerry, we're friends, but I ain't paying you until this truck is done."

The two went into the body shop's office to talk more.

"So we're sitting in the office, and the conversation was as calm as this," Cole said. "The next thing I know, Jerry's pulled a gun out and he said, 'I'm going to kill you right now ... if you don't give me all your money.' By the time he said that, he'd shot me in the side.

"I said, 'Jerry! Why are you doing this over an old truck?' He said, 'No. ... I've got to pay them tonight. Give me all your money or you're dying right here.'"

A struggle ensued, and Cole said that's when his right hand got caught beneath the hammer of the gun. In the meantime, a body shop employee called police. According to an arrest citation, Mathes "stated that he did shoot Cole in the office area of the business."

Cole was flown by helicopter to the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital for treatment of the gunshot wound. The bullet broke into fragments in the fatty portion of Cole's left side.

"The doctor said I'll be totally fine," Cole said. Whether the fragments will be taken out will be determined when Cole sees the doctor Nov. 5.

Cole said he was fine, although his muscles feel as if "somebody hit you with a baseball bat."

He said he wanted people to know that the incident was not a drug deal. Mathes told police he and Cole "were arguing over money owed over a truck," according to the arrest citation.

Boyle County court records show Mathes pleaded guilty in 2008 to possession of a controlled substance (unspecified). According to the arrest citation on the cocaine possession, Mathes told police that he used cocaine "every now and then" but that he had "used for years." Police also found a small green straw with cocaine residue during a search of Mathes.

Cole acknowledged that, aside from the "rough running," "Jerry built me a beautiful truck."

But he also said, "I've never been so scared in my life."