The last thing Georgan Browning expected to hear when she answered her phone early Monday was, “Honey, I’ve been shot. Don’t worry. If I die, I know where I’m going.”
Her husband Russell was sitting in his car at a 7-Eleven in La Habra with his windows rolled up, when he saw the clerk and a man arguing. The clerk wound up standing at the driver’s side of Browning’s car while the suspect stood at the passenger side.
Russell Browning, 60, saw the suspect had a gun. He didn’t know what to do, he could reverse his car and potentially be face to face with the gunman, or he could stay there and hope for the best. He chose the latter.
The gunman fired, likely aiming for his head, police told the family later. But the bullet going through the glass of the car window affected its trajectory, and it hit his mouth only. He remembers the flash of the gun and feeling the impact.
“A width of a hair would’ve been life or death,” Browning said Friday afternoon, resting on his recliner at home with his family around him and his jaw wired shut.
It wasn’t the first time Georgan Browning had picked up the telephone to hear her husband was near death.
In the early ’90s, five years into their marriage, Russell, known as Russ, was hit by a car on a side street going 40 miles per hour near Disneyland. Russ flew 17 feet in the air and his head was split open. Georgan, who at the time worked for OC Rescue Mission, got the call saying she needed to get to UCI Medical Center immediately – things didn’t look good for Russ.
He was in a coma for five days, but despite doctors saying he wouldn’t work again for two years, he was back on the job as a truck driver in nine months.
Russ Browning has driven a truck since high school, he said, a total of 42 years, with 2 million local miles under his belt. He loves his routine.
So when he went to a La Habra 7-Eleven just before 5 a.m. near his house Monday morning to pick up some milk, a bag of ice and his favorite doughnuts before the start of his work day, it was business as usual.
Russ Browning had stopped frequenting a different 7-Eleven after being told by a female clerk that there had been multiple robberies there. At the time, he said, he was shocked they allowed a female to work alone overnight.
Despite the harrowing events of Monday morning, Browning is in good spirits. A Christian, he’s been leaning on his faith and is confident that God protected him that day.
“I thanked the Lord for my life, and then I called my wife,” he said of the moments after the shooting.
The couple met when Russ got a job working for Georgan’s brother, and they’ve lived at their La Habra home since 1996.
Browning was taken to UCI Medical Center, and it did not escape Georgan’s notice that it was the same hospital he was taken to all those years ago after the car collision.
The bullet went out of his mouth on the left side of his face, shattering his teeth. Because his jaw is wired shut, he can’t eat solid food, likely for 4-6 weeks.
“There’s a long road to go. The pain is not bad, but I don’t like to drool,” he said. He asked his plastic surgeon to keep his mustache, but he hopes he doesn’t have “the Elvis curl” of his deformed lip forever.
The couple acknowledges they’ve gone through some trials in life. “But this was the worst,” they both said simultaneously.
“Having to tell [my son] Brandon was one of the worst things I’ve ever had to do,” Georgan said.
But they also recognize that they are lucky. The suspects arrested on Friday were implicated in a string of 7-Eleven shootings in Southern California. Two families didn’t get to bring their loved ones back from the hospital. It’s been on their minds every day.
“I feel for the families of the other victims,” Russ Browning said. “Our thoughts are with them.”
The couple has been inundated with well-wishers, friends and family calling to check up or dropping off food. Neighbors in their tight-knit La Habra neighborhood walk over to offer their services. A GoFundMe account was started to help with medical costs.
The overwhelming support and sense of community has given Georgan hope.
“We need to come back together as people, we can’t get to a point where this is normal,” she said. “We don’t want anyone to go through this – your whole life stops, doesn’t matter what bills you have to pay or work you have to do, everything stops.”
She worries that people will see tragedies like this happen so often they will be desensitized to the devastation. The violence affects everyone, she said.
“We don’t want anything bad to happen to [the suspect,] we just don’t want him to hurt anyone else,” Georgan said. “We want people to get the help they need.”
Source: Orange County Register