Alicia Keating from Oklahoma took her two girls, aged 2 and 12, shopping at Walmart one night. But as they turned the corner around one aisle, Keating’s life was turned upside down.
Coming down the aisle from the other direction was Sammie Wallace, a wanted felon with a history of violent arrests and mental health issues.
Quick as anything, as the two parties crossed paths, Wallace snatched Keating’s 2-year-old daughter Zoey from the shopping cart and held her hostage.
“I thought, ‘This can’t be real,'” Keating said.
Keating had just turned around for a moment to pick up something. Then she snapped around, and Zoey was in the arms of a stranger.
“He said really quietly, ‘Hey little mama, you see this knife?'”
Keating freaked out. She said she couldn’t even try to maintain her composure—her baby was being held hostage at knife-point.
“I was literally begging for my daughter’s life,” she told NBC.
“I wanted to reach out and grab her but he had a knife. There was nothing I could do but stand there and beg for her life.”
She screamed, at the top of her lungs, “Please help me, please help me! This man has my baby!”
Bystanders acted quickly, detaining him by pushing their shopping carts at him so he couldn’t run away with the girl.
One called 911 immediately: “We need police at the Walmart. There’s someone with a knife holding a little girl hostage.”
Meanwhile, Keating begged him not to hurt her little girl.
“I said, ‘Please, please don’t hurt my baby. We weren’t able to have children for three years I prayed for her every day that the Lord would give me a child and the Lord gave her to me. Please don’t hurt her,'” she said. She saw there was a tear running down his face, but he would not let up.
Wallace tried to walk away, pushing through the carts, but Keating just kept following him and pleading.
When the police arrived, he’d gotten to the end of the aisle. Trained hostage negotiators took over the situation, but at first every tactic they tried only made the man irritated and erratic. They soon learned who he was, and his history of mental illness.
The next half hour was a nail-bitingly tense one. Keating was ushered out of the building while police took over and had to wait, not knowing what was happening. That ended up being harder than having to plead for her daughter’s life.
“There was a moment where I thought I would just run back in there and give him all that I could to get my baby back,” she said.
Police got Wallace a chair as they continued to try to talk him down. But he kept the knife near the child’s neck the entire time.
Then he started counting down from 60.
“When you have a suspect that starts counting down on a child’s life, we’re going to have to take appropriate action, and unfortunately we had to use deadly force,” Midwest City’s assistant police Chief Sid Porter later told NBC.
Wallace was distracted for a moment, and officers took their chance.
They shot Wallace point-blank, and then grabbed the girl.
Meanwhile, Keating was expecting the worst. The gunshot rang out, and she screamed.
“I heard the shot go off and I thought, ‘Oh my God, they just killed her,'” Keating said. “I thought, ‘She’s dead.'”
That wasn’t the case. Another moment later, Zoey was being carried out of the Walmart, and straight into her mother’s arms.
“I’ve never been more thankful to have my baby,” Keating said. “I’m so thankful that I have her.”
Keating said she credits divine intervention. When she found out that the man had been shot and killed, she prayed, and “asked the Lord to have mercy and show him the way.”
Just two weeks after the incident, Zoey was fine and reportedly had no memory of what had happened.
“There is a good ending to this story,” Keating said. “My daughter has her life and I am very thankful for that.”