When terror fell upon an El Paso, Texas Walmart on Saturday morning, Glendon Oakley sprung into action, saving multiple children from the rampage.
A child approached the Fort Bliss stationed soldier, who was shopping at a sporting goods store inside the Cielo Vista Mall, informing him of an active shooter at the superstore. He soon heard two nearby gunshots.
Minutes later, the 22-year-old exited the store, pulling out his 9mm.
"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."
A group of shoppers fled for the mall’s exit, with Oakley in tow. He saw a group of kids in an open play area, screaming for their parents.
“We run towards Dillard's, and it's like a play pen over there,” he told WMAZ-TV. “I see a whole bunch of kids like, without their parents running around screaming and crying, so I grab as many as possible.”
According to CNN, he and another man began rescuing children. There were about 13 kids, Oakley said, but he could only carry three.
Oakley described the nightmare melee, revealing how his first priority was saving children, and not his own life.
“I didn't even think. I just grabbed as many kids as I could and ran five stores down to the exit," he said. "We got there and ran into a whole batch of police pointing their guns at us. I wasn't focused on myself, and I wasn't focused on my surrounding... I was just focused on those kids."
But Private First Class Oakley doesn’t want the credit, telling KDBC, “The spotlight should not be on me right now. I need the media to go out to the families and make sure they're okay. I understand it was heroic and I'm looked at as a hero for it… but that wasn't the reason for me.”
Despite receiving numerous phone calls since his heroic act, he wants the media to instead focus on the victims.
"I'm more focused on the families that were lost,” he tearfully said. “I want to reach out to the families that were lost and the families that lost their children.”
CBS News reports at least 20 people were killed in “one of the deadliest days in the history of Texas.” The youngest victim was 2 years old, as dozens others were injured in the terror attack.
Police have identified the suspect in the deadly shooting as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius of Allen, Texas. Crusius surrendered to officers when they approached him in Walmart and was taken safely into custody.
Court records reveal Crusius is being charged with capital murder, as the shooting is being investigated as domestic terrorism.
Oakley was home for only four months before the El Paso tragedy.
After completing basic training around March 2018, he was deployed to Kuwait.
The Killeen, Texas native was born into an Army family. His father, Glendon Oakley Sr., served for over three decades before retiring in 2011 at the rank of sergeant major. Wendolyn D. Oakley, his mother, retired as a master sergeant in 2001 after 20 years as his older sister, Glenda Oakley, is a retired captain.
Our condolences go out to everyone affected by this tragedy.