Held at gunpoint in a Greenbrae parking lot by a man who spouted conspiracy theories as he warned that he "already took somebody down," Tina Marie Humphrey did what came naturally — she showed him pictures of her three children.
"I had this weird feeling that I was in the right place at the right time," Humphrey, a 52-year-old Mill Valley contractor, said Tuesday. "I could tell that if I could keep him calm and connect with him, he probably wouldn't hurt me."
Humphrey, a former Cambria resident who designed the current Cambria Pines Lodge, became a heroic figure in Monday's arrest of a heavily armed Oregon man whose mother had reported that he was on a journey south to the Russian Consulate in San Francisco, with plans to take shelter there from the U.S. government, police said.
The man, Jeffrey Griffin Boyce of Coos County, had carjacked a man in Rohnert Park earlier Monday before heading to Greenbrae, and was wanted for questioning in a homicide Sunday in Oregon, police said. (Read more about Monday's incident at sfgate.com »)
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Humphrey, who is a fourth-generation Cambrian, left for the Bay Area in October 2011, relocating her contracting business, www.buildergirl.com. She still has relatives in San Luis Obispo County.
She said in a phone interview Wednesday that she feels she's dealing fairly well with the stress that sets in after such a high-risk, high-tension confrontation, although she said she hadn't been able to eat a meal until this morning, and investigators have advised her to seek some post-traumatic stress counseling.
Humphrey said of the incident, "I can't tell you how weird that strange sense of calm was. When I leaned against him to show him the pictures of the kids, I felt him relax," as if he'd been feeling all alone in the world and somehow Humphrey had given him some reassurance.
She said the most difficult part of confronting him was "not letting him see that my hands were shaking, because I didn't want him to know I was scared and not to overreact when he said, 'You're lying to me.' "
She said even if she'd known ahead of time that Boyce was being sought in connection with a homicide in Oregon, that officials had freeway exits blocked and had already shut down the Russian Consulate in San Francisco, where the gunman's mother said he was headed, "I think I still would have done the same thing. Everything in my life is going so well. ... It was the strangest sensation. I really had the sense that I wasn't going to die and this was some kind of opportunity for me to do the right thing."
The hardest part of the incident "was when the sirens came, and I thought, 'He's thinking he has the opportunity to run or to take me hostage. I don't want to be a hostage. I need to walk away and hope he doesn't shoot me in the back.' "
Since then, Humphrey's been understandably besieged with requests for interviews. One reporter asked if her actions had made her children angry. Humphrey snapped back, "Why would they have been angry? All three of my kids said they were super proud of me. I've always taught them to do the same thing always stick up for yourself, but do it with compassion."
Humphrey said one of the most unusual responses came after the broadcast of a TV interview about the incident, when the show switched from the videotape back to the news-anchor desk. "The male anchor looked at his co-anchor and said, 'Well, if I ever need a remodel, I'm going to call Buildergirl because she's going to get it done!' "