Hero Barber and Customer Risk Their Lives for a Stranger

When a woman screamed, the two men sprinted into the line of fire to help.

michael cade, henry mchenry
Michael Friberg for Reader’s Digest

A few minutes after opening the New Era Barbershop for business one morning, barber Henry McHenry, 40, chatted with his first customer of the day, Michael Cade, 46, as he clipped his hair. He paused only when a manicurist who worked in the salon two doors down ducked in to say hello, as she often did. On one of those visits, she’d confided in Henry about her abusive husband. “If you ever see a guy pull up in an F-150 truck, he’s coming for me,” she had told him.

Henry couldn’t picture that here, in this very public strip mall in the Northside district of Houston. Nevertheless, a few minutes later, four gunshots broke the quiet of the May morning. Henry dashed to the window. The walkway outside was strewn with shattered glass. A white Ford F-150 had pulled up in front of the nail salon. “I knew right then,” Henry remembers, “he’s here, and he has just shot at her. That was the scariest moment of my life.”

Henry hurriedly dialed 911, while Michael cracked open the door. In a haze of gun smoke, he watched a brawny man with a buzz cut emerge from the salon, pulling his estranged wife by the hair and holding a gun to her head. “Somebody help me!” she was screaming.

Michael had spent years as a military police officer, then a federal cop. As the man forced the woman into the truck, Michael knew he had to act right away.

Without a word, Michael slipped out of the shop. “Are you crazy?” Henry hissed after him.

Crouching, Michael ran around the truck to the open driver’s-side door, hoping to charge the man while his back was turned. But the man was waiting for him. Suddenly, “my face was jarred as if someone thumped me,” Michael says. He’d been shot in the head.

Michael’s vision went dark; he fell to the ground. Lying in a puddle of blood on the parking lot asphalt, he believed he was dying.

But suddenly, he says, he felt new energy course through him—which he credits to his faith in God.

From where he was lying, Michael then grabbed the shooter’s legs, dragging him to the ground. When he tried to get his hands on the weapon, though, the man hit him in the shoulder with the butt of the gun, fracturing Michael’s collarbone.

During the fracas, the woman fled into the barbershop, where Henry was waiting.

Looking out the window, Henry saw Michael drenched in blood. I can’t let him die, Henry thought.

Just as the man aimed the gun at Michael again, Henry burst out of the barbershop and flung his arm around the man’s head, putting him in a choke hold, a move he’d learned as a black belt in karate.

While the guy flailed, Michael grabbed his gun. Minutes later, the police arrived and arrested the man, who was identified as the woman’s husband, Truc Nguyen.

Amazingly, the bullets had missed the vital areas of Michael’s brain and exited his body. He was treated for gunshot wounds and received stitches for cuts to his face. Michael was able to return to his job as a vocational rehab specialist just weeks later.

The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission recently gave the two men medals for their heroism. But Henry gives Michael all the credit, saying, “He put his life on the line for a stranger.”

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest