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Army soldier from Georgia tried to save kids during El Paso mass shooting

Approximately 50 people gathered at St. Edwards University Saturday evening for a candlelight vigil honoring the victims of the Walmart in El Paso shooting. [ARIANA GARCIA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

When a child ran past him saying there was an active shooter in Walmart, Pvt. 1st Class Glendon Oakley Jr. said he didn’t believe it at first.

“The guy at the register and I sort of looked at each other,” Oakley told Task & Purpose in a phone interview on Saturday. “He’s a little kid … are you going to believe him?”

But as he left the store and heard gunfire, his training kicked in. Oakley has a license to carry, so he pulled out his gun.

“That’s what you do,” he told Task & Purpose. “You pull your gun, you find cover, and you figure out what to do next.”

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Oakley ran to the parking lot and saw “a whole bunch of kids just running around, you know, without their parents and stuff,” he said, according to NBCnews.com. “So I get my bag in my hand I try to pick up as many as I can.”

“I’m in the military, so when I hear gunshots, I just think ‘take cover.’ But I was so worried about those kids,”’ he told MSNBC.

Personnel from Fort Bliss confirmed Oakley’s Army status to ConnectingVets.com and provided that he has received the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.

Oakley told Task & Purpose he grew up in Killeen, Texas, in an Army family, but it wasn’t until he moved to Macon that he decided to follow their path.

According to Task & Purpose, Oakley met an Army recruiter who helped him put together the appropriate waivers to allow him to actually enlist.

“I had to get an ASVAB waiver, I had to get a tattoo waiver, everything … even though my parents were in the Army, nobody would give me the time of day,” Oakley said. “There was one recruiter who didn’t give up on me. For two years, he didn’t give up.”

Authorities said Patrick Crusius, 21, started shooting shortly after noon near the Cielo Vista Mall. The shooting started in a Walmart and continued toward the mall, which is nearby.

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© 2019 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.