CINCINNATI (AP) — Believing she was dying after a gunman riddled her body with bullets, a bank executive said Wednesday she urged first responders to save her life for her two small children.
Whitney Austin, 37, survived 12 gunshots Sept. 6. She recounted her ordeal in a taped interview shown on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Intent on a conference call she was taking part in on her cellphone that morning, she walked into the lobby as other people tried to signal her away. The gunman shot her as she entered.
“It felt like a burning sensation,” she said, and when she began coughing up blood, “My brain immediately went toward: “I’m dying.’”
Lying on the floor, she then focused on wanting to call her family to say goodbye.
“I assumed he saw me move and he shot me several more times,” said Austin. She then played dead.
She spotted a Cincinnati police officer and shouted: “I have a 5- and a 7-year-old who need their mother. You need to save me! Come get me!”
The gunman died in a hail of police bullets and shells.
Her husband, Waller Austin, recounted getting called by police who told him his wife had been involved in an active-shooter situation and was wounded multiple times in her chest.
“I was just, you know, reeling,” he said.
Austin was initially listed in critical condition after the shootings, in which the gunman killed three people and wounded another man before police killed him. She was released Sept. 11 from University of Cincinnati Medical Center after undergoing nearly seven hours of surgery that left her body loaded with screws, staples and other surgical devices.
Austin told WAVE-TV in her Louisville, Kentucky, home Wednesday that she had delivered the same message of keeping her alive for her children’s sake to other first responders and to the doctors and nurses at the hospital. She said they assured her they knew “needed to get to your kids.”
“My kids are everything to me,” she said. “That was my motivation through all of that.”
The wounded man was released Sept. 10.
Police aren’t sure why 29-year-old Omar Enrique Santa Perez opened fire inside the Fifth Third building where Austin was a vice president.
Florida court records show family members had fought years ago to get him committed to a mental health facility.
Austin has launched a nonprofit foundation called WhitneyStrong, dedicated to reducing gun violence through promoting responsible gun ownership. She said that her children should be safe in their schools and that people like her should be safe in their workplaces.
She will need more surgery on her right arm, and likely will carry scars the rest of her life.
“It’s OK,” Austin said. “I don’t want to forget.”
Originally published Wednesday, September 26. Associated Press writer Angie Wang in Cincinnati contributed. Follow Dan Sewell at http://www.twitter.com/dansewell