Army Vet Hailed a Hero After Braving Gunfire to Save Children During El Paso Walmart Massacre

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
August 4, 2019 Updated: August 4, 2019

An Army veteran told reporters how he tried to take terrified children to safety in the wake of the El Paso Walmart massacre on Aug. 3.

In one of America’s bloodiest mass shootings, a gunman killed at least 20 and wounded 26 others on Saturday including a young mother holding her 2-month-old son.

U.S. Army specialist Glendon Oakley told reporters he was shopping at a sporting goods store inside the Cielo Vista Mall when the gunman struck. He told an MSNBC reporter that after gunfire rang out, he tried to pick up and carry as many children as he could and usher them to safety during the deadly rampage.

“I see a whole bunch of kids running around without their parents,” Oakley told an MSNBC reporter. “I got my bag in my hand I’m trying to pick up as many as I can and run out.”

‘I Hear ‘Bop! Bop!’

According to Task and Purpose, the 22-year-old is an Army automated logistics specialist assigned to the 504th Composite Supply Company, 142nd Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Oakley told Task & Purpose in a phone interview that a young child burst into the store shouting about an active shooter.

“The guy at the register and I sort of looked at each other,” Oakley said. “He’s a little kid … are you going to believe him?”

Oakley told an MSNBC reporter that moments later he heard the sound of gunfire.

“I walked out the mall to go to Footlocker,” he told MSNBC, adding, “I hear ‘Bop! Bop!'”

Oakley told Task & Purpose he immediately drew his Glock 9mm, for which he said he has a concealed carry permit. “That’s what you do,” he told the publication. “You pull your gun, you find cover, and you figure out what to do next.”

He said store employees initially pulled down the store’s metal security gate but later they decided to lift it up and try and flee to safety. Oakley told Task & Purpose he followed the group with his firearm drawn, serving as a rearguard.

‘Just Focused On Those Kids’

The army vet said that on his way out he spotted a group of children running around in a panic with their parents nowhere in sight.

“I got my bag in my hand. I’m trying to pick them up, as many as I can, just run out,” Oakley told MSNBC. “But they’re so anxious, they’re, like, jumping out of my hands.”

Oakley said he managed to carry a few of the children out of the shopping center and to safety.

“I didn’t even think. I just grabbed as many kids as I could and ran five stores down to the exit,” he told Task & Purpose. “I wasn’t focused on myself, and I wasn’t focused on my surroundings … I was just focused on those kids.”

He admitted that during the ordeal, he was “scared for my life.”

“I heard four kids died,” he told Task & Purpose. “I wish I could have gotten more kids out of there. I wish those guys who ran would have stayed … I just think, what if that was my child? How would I want some other man to react?”

Oakley said when he emerged from the mall, he was met by police with weapons drawn.

“When I got out, I guess one of the cops thought I was the shooter or something,” Oakley said. “So I had to show ’em my clip and stuff, show ’em I had my license to carry. He said I was fine.”

‘You Are a True Hero’

Many on social media praised Oakley for his bravery during the shooting.

“HERO!’ said Twitter user JamieR Army Girl. “Active Duty member Glen Oakley, who was near the El Paso Walmart rushed to protect children during the shooting! Thank you and God Bless you!”

“Glendon, I just saw what you did on the news in Atlanta,” wrote a person on Facebook. “You are a true hero! There needs to be more people like you in this world. Thank you for your service and for being so brave and selfless today. You made such a difference. God bless you! Mad respect in Atlanta!”

“You need to be careful pulling out your weapon when you don’t know what’s going on,” noted another commenter. “The police, thank goodness, didn’t mistake you as the shooter and instead checked your license to carry.”

Gunman Identified

Two law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity identified the suspect as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius.

El Paso police have yet to release the gunman’s name but confirmed that the shooter was a 21-year-old white male from Allen, Texas, a Dallas-area city some 650 miles east of El Paso.

The suspect was taken into custody without incident, according to authorities. Video posted on social media appeared to show him being handcuffed by police and placed in a squad car.

The El Paso Walmart shooting is the 21st mass killing in the United States in 2019, and the fifth public mass shooting.

Before Saturday, 96 people had died in mass killings in 2019—26 of them in public mass shootings.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'