A US soldier is being hailed as a hero after he saved multiple children during the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas on August 3.
Private First Class Glendon Oakley, who is stationed at nearby Fort Bliss, broke down crying when describing to reporters his actions during the horrific rampage that left 22 dead. Oakley was at the mall when the shooter opened fire. He said no one, including himself, paid attention when a child ran in and said there was an active shooter at the nearby Walmart.
Oakley told CNN that he ignored the child and walked to another store. But then he heard two gunshots and saw people run and scream. The soldier said that in the minutes following he planned to run out with everyone else towards the gunshots.
“But I see a whole bunch of kids running around without their parents. Only thing I think of is pick up as many kids I can as possible,” Oakley told CNN. He said that he and another man began corralling the approximately 13 children at a play pen. The children were without their parents, Oakley told WMAZ-TV.
Oakley said that he was only able to carry three of the children. “I was just focused on the kids, I wasn’t really worried about myself. So just put my head down and just ran as fast as I could,” he told CNN. “They were anxious, when they were in my arms, they were trying to jump out of my arms but trying to keep them as tight as possible. They are kids, so they don’t understand what is going on.”
He said that once he saw the police, he let the children go and took out his phone “in case they were going to shoot me and started recording while I was running.” Oakley said his first concern was getting the children out of harm’s way.
“I did that because that is what I was trained to do,” Oakley said. “That is what the military has taught me to do, and that [is] why I am thankful to be in the military and what they have taught me.”
Oakley said he does not have children of his own but has a goddaughter who he protects “like she’s mine.”
In an interview with KDBC, Oakley maintained that while he understands why some call his actions heroic, that is not why he did what he did. “I just did what I would want another person to do for my children,” he said. “I know what I did was heroic but I’m more focused on the families that were lost and the kids that died and the people that died.”
Through tears, Oakley told KDBC that he wanted the media to focus on the victims and their loved ones. “I’m more focused on the families that were lost. I want to reach out to the families that were lost and the families that lost their children,” he said to CBS News.
A US Army spokesman for the Fort Bliss Garrison said Oakley is currently on leave. The Army did not respond to The North Star’s request for additional comment.
At least 22 people were killed and more than two dozen were injured during the shooting inside an El Paso Walmart and parking lot on August 3. Authorities said a 21-year-old white male suspect, identified as Patrick Crusius, was taken into custody without incident.
US Attorney John Bash said prosecutors were pursuing a criminal investigation, a civil rights hate crime investigation, and “domestic terrorism” charges against Crusius, CBS News reported. The Allen, Texas resident purchased his weapon legally and was being “forthcoming with information” to investigators, El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen told reporters.
Crusius is believed to be behind a racist, anti-immigrant “manifesto” published before the rampage. The document echoed President Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric and announced that “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Texas, which was once part of Mexico, shares a border with the nation to the south. According to CBS News, the shopping area where the shooting occurred is located about 5 miles from the main border checkpoint with Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
Less than 24 hours after the mass shooting in El Paso, a gunman opened fire in Dayton, Ohio. The shooter, who police killed a minute after he began shooting, left at least nine people dead.
For information on how to help the victims and their families of these two shootings, visit here.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.