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Date of Issue: December 26, 2007

Homesick: Shooting victim on the mend, anxious for home

Sue Normand recuperates in a hospital bed last week. Normand was shot in the hip Dec. 5, minutes after opening her store, Island Mail & More, in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Sue Normand chuckles at her good humor.

“Well, I like all my customers,” she says, followed by a pause and then the clarifying punchline, “except one.”

That one customer, Mark W. Koenigs, is the man who allegedly shot Normand on Dec. 5, minutes after she opened her Island Mail & More store in Holmes Beach.

Normand, 63, does not characterize Koenigs, who has refused to talk with police about the incident, as a bad guy.

“This is somebody who is not in a good mental state,” said Normand. “I think he wasn’t in his right mind and, from what I’ve read, he hadn’t been for a long time.

“I think of him as somebody who is mentally ill,” she continued. “I’m surprised that I don’t feel anger or hatred. But don’t get me wrong. I want to see him get the maximum punishment allowable.”

Koenigs, 54, faces multiple charges in connection with the shooting at Island Mail & More. The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office arrested him on two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm and the Holmes Beach Police Department arrested him for attempted first-degree murder. Koenigs, who remained last week in the Manatee County jail on bond totaling $2.4 million, also faces two counts of contempt of court in an apparently unrelated case.

According to law enforcement reports, Koenigs, a self-employed real estate agent with addresses and property holdings in Bradenton Beach and Bradenton, waited for a couple of hours for Normand to arrive to her store in the Anna Maria Island Centre Shops on East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach.

The man, who had been a customer on about 12 occasions over the past year, placed a box on the counter. And from the box he removed a gun. Normand was shot once in the abdomen, the bullet shattering her hip.

A customer waiting nearby, Bruce Henke of Columbus, Ohio, called 911 and applied paper towels to the wound until emergency personnel arrived.

Shortly after the shooting at Island Mail & More, Koenigs was arrested on the beach in Bradenton Beach, where MCSO deputies shot him three times after he allegedly turned his 9-mm handgun on them.

“It all happened so sudden and so fast,” said Normand, who previously had firearm training and took self-defense classes. “If I’d been standing at the counter with a weapon in my hand, I wouldn’t have been able to fire it.”

Normand, evacuated by a medical chopper from the plaza parking lot, underwent surgery Dec. 6 and spent more than a week at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, much of the time in the intensive care unit.

On Dec. 16, Normand was transferred to a rehab facility in Sarasota, where she began physical therapy and counted down the 10 days until her release and return to the Island. Normand planned to stay in a ground-level apartment until her elevated Holmes Beach home could be outfitted for a wheelchair.

“I want to get independent again,” Normand said. “And once they tell me when I can go, I need to be ready with a place.”

Her second day at the rehab facility, Normand, who had enjoyed years of good health, learned first-hand that “occupational therapy” has nothing to do with one’s occupation.

“It’s learning all the things we take for granted every day,” Normand said.

She faced four therapy sessions a day - two occupational therapy sessions to prepare her for tackling everyday chores and using a walker and a wheelchair, and two physical therapy sessions to regain strength and coordination.

“They really have a strong program here,” Normand said. “It’s designed to get you back on your feet as soon as possible.”

In between therapy sessions, she visited with friends and family and took phone calls, most of them from well-wishers hoping for her full recovery, which may take as long as a year.

“I’ve heard from people I went to high school with back in Virginia,” Normand said, her eyes tearing up at their concern for her. “And everyone here has been so supportive. I feel like, without all the notes, I would have felt very much alone. It’s been heart-warming.”

Periodically, a medical attendant stopped by to inquire about Normand’s comfort, to give her medication or take requests for the next meal - scrambled eggs, orange juice, milk and hash browns for Wednesday’s breakfast.

From the hall, there were sounds of conversation at a nursing station, the hums of medical equipment and an occasional cough.

Get-well cards, plants and flowers adorned most flat surfaces by Normand’s bed.

The room also contained evidence of the work she faced - a wheelchair in one corner, a walker by the window.

“I might be using a walker for three to six months,” Normand said.

As Normand worked in therapy, the community remained united behind her recovery, collecting money to help offset medical costs and other expenses.

An estimated 47 percent of small businesses in the United States lack health insurance benefits and about half of all uninsured workers in the United States either are self-employed or work for a small business, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit public policy group.

Normand is one of the uninsured.

Two funds were established in the days after her shooting. One, the Sue Normand Recovery and Relief Fund created by family and friends, is collecting contributions at and Regions Bank. Also, the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, is collecting money in its Bay of Dreams account to assist Normand.

The Anna Maria Island Privateers will raise money for Normand’s expenses with a mullet smoke on Jan. 19 in the parking lot at the Publix Super Market in Holmes Beach.

Also, a benefit concert for Normand was scheduled to take place at the BeachHouse Restaurant Sunday, Dec. 23, as The Islander went to press.

“I’m hoping we raise a substantial amount of money,” said Islander Chuck Caudill of the band Counter Clockwise.

The band consists of Caudill, 53, Eric Chanie, 16, Matt Meola, 15, and Islander Jay Beard, 13.

“They thought it was a great idea,” Caudill said of his band mates. “They were all 100 percent behind it.”

At Island Mail & More last week, Normand’s son, Stephen, conducted business, sometimes with the help of volunteers.

In addition to the volunteer support, Normand also has received assistance from the MCSO victim’s advocate unit.

Normand herself has served as a volunteer victim’s advocate for the sheriff’s office and was on-call the day of the shooting. She signed up for the program after attending the MCSO citizen’s police academy, sponsored by HBPD Chief Jay Romine.

With two victim’s advocates by her side at Bayfront, Normand thought, “I’m on the wrong side of this bed.”

As Koenigs’ case moves through the court system, the victim’s advocate program will offer Normand advice and support.

The advocates also will help Normand navigate the potentially complicated process of securing compensation. State and federal programs make available compensation for disability, wage loss, medical expenses, property loss, even funding for cleaning up a crime scene.

The state of Florida paid more than $19 million in compensation for 9,400 victim claims in 2004, the most current statistics available.

Normand, once the criminal case is finalized, also could receive restitution if ordered by a judge - Florida law provides that a court may require an offender to pay all restitution to a victim before paying other fines and other expenses.

Additionally, Normand could file a civil suit, which would probably not be considered until the criminal case is closed, according to spokespeople with the National Crime Victim Bar Association and the National Center for Victims of Crime.

Koenigs, who is represented by public defender Peter Belmont, is identified in court records as the owner of several properties, but his financial situation is unknown. He already faces a civil suit filed by River Point of Manatee Homeowners Association that claims Koenigs has failed to pay his assessment fees on his Bradenton home.

“I’m considering all options because I need to do that,” Normand said when asked about a lawsuit.

She emphasized that she’s now focused on her health and returning to a somewhat normal routine. She won’t immediately return to working long hours at Island Mail & More, but she’s eager to return to work.

“It’s very difficult to stay away from your business,” Normand said. “I want to work, even to at least work from a computer.”

With the new year approaching, Normand’s goals have shifted in the past few weeks. She said she didn’t expect to spend New Year’s Eve dancing and dining, but she expects to soon be telecommuting from home, just like the Islanders she sought to serve when she opened Island Mail & More five years ago.