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A mom of two who was shot 12 times during a bank rampage earlier this month is speaking out about her near-death experience.
In an interview with Good Morning America, which aired on Wednesday, Whitney Austin said she was shot and fell walking through the building door for a meeting on Sept. 6 at the Fifth Third Bank in downtown Cincinnati. According to GMA, seconds before, 29-year-old Omar Perez had begun firing a handgun in the lobby.
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“It felt like a burning sensation,” Austin recalled to the outlet. “I immediately started to cough up blood and that’s when my brain immediately went toward, ‘I’m dying.’ “
She continued, “I immediately thought, ‘I want to say goodbye to my family’ … I assumed [the shooter] saw me move, and he shot me several more times.”
Even after being hit by 12 bullets, Austin consciously decided to play dead and eventually got the attention of a police officer responding to the scene, according to Good Morning America. “I’m shouting at him, ‘I have a 5- and a 7-year-old who need their mother. You need to save me. Come get me,’ ” she shared. “At that point, they were tracking him, they then shoot him down.”
Austin spent five days in a hospital being treated for her injuries. Three other victims and the shooter were killed.
“Thousands of things went right in order for me to live — not only to live but to come out of this emotionally strong,” Austin told Good Morning America. “For those three, thousands of things went wrong. How is that fair? How does that happen? Why me and not them? I just can’t reconcile it. I try not to spend any energy on it because I’ll never have those answers.”
The Louisville, Kentucky, native — who had been traveling for her job as a senior product manager at Fifth Third — has since started a nonprofit, Whitney Strong, dedicated to reducing gun violence.
“This is about making sure that our kids can go to school and they don’t have to participate in active shooter drills on a monthly basis,” she explained to Good Morning America. “This is so people like me can walk into their place of employment and not get shot 12 times.”
Officers responded to a call for the shooting at 9:10 a.m. local time on Thursday, Sept. 6 at Fifth Third Bank at 511 Walnut Street and exchanged gunfire with the suspect.
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Cincinnati mayor John Cranley said at a press conference that the targets of the shooting appeared to be random and that “it didn’t appear to be a dispute between people.”
Cranley described the shooting as “a multiple shooting of innocent victims,” saying it was “horrific. Grotesque.”
The mayor also praised the quick response by police, saying officers did “a heroic job… He was actively shooting innocent victims and our officers were able to kill him and stop the threat very quickly,” he said, adding police saved “God knows how many lives.”
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