The shooting that killed 20 people at a crowded El Paso shopping area will be handled as a domestic terrorism case, and could carry the death penalty. AP
In the mass shooting that killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Army Pfc. Glendon Oakley Jr. emerged a hero.
Oakley Jr. was reportedly walking outside nearby stores when he heard the gunfire, prompting him to run toward the chaos, where he and another man began carrying children to safety. Oakley Jr. told CNN he encountered about 13 children as he rushed toward the deadly scene, but could only carry three.
“What I did was what I was supposed to do, and I understand it was heroic and I’m looked at as a hero for it, but that wasn’t the reason for me …” Oakley Jr. told reporters Sunday as he broke into tears. “I’m just focused on the kids that I could not get and the families that were lost.”
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The 22-year-old private first class had returned recently from a deployment in Kuwait, according to Task & Purpose. He called Saturday’s experience “the worst thing I’ve ever been through in my life.”
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“All I thought of was how I would want another man to react if I had a child and I wasn’t around my child at the time,” an emotional Oakley Jr. said.
He added, “I didn’t get any sleep last night.I don’t want to talk about what went on there, because I just want to forget about it all. I just want to focus on the people that are lost, the loved ones.”
The Texas resident repeatedly made a point to direct the spotlight away from himself.
“I want to look out to the families that were lost and the families that lost their children, because the focus should not be on me, it should be on what happened in Ohio and what happened in Chicago and what happened yesterday,” he said as he fought back tears.
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“I understand what I did was heroic, but I did that because that’s what I was trained to do. That is what the military has taught me to do and that’s why I’m thankful to be in the military and for what they have taught me … But, I really want [the media] to focus on the people that are actually grieving through this.”
Reporters gave Oakley Jr. a break in the middle of his emotional interview on Sunday, noting that his story is a sign of hope amid a story of intense tragedy and grief.
Oakley Jr. comes from a devout military family: his older sister, mother and father are all either active or retired members of the Army, according to Task & Purpose.
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