EDITOR'S NOTE: After this article was published, the El Paso police raised questions about Pfc. Oakley’s account, and said they were unable to either verify or disprove whether he saved any children or acted heroically. Oakley was later arrested by the military in October of 2019 for being AWOL, and he was found dead on his army base on April 8, 2020 of undisclosed causes.
A shopper said he tried to scoop up many children at the mall in El Paso, Texas, where a gunman opened fire Saturday at a Walmart. At least 20 people were killed, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters.
The shopper, Glendon Oakley, described himself as a member of the military who has a license to carry a firearm. He said he pulled out his weapon as he heard gunfire echo through Cielo Vista Mall, which abuts the Walmart.
He didn't open fire, but as he fled he said he tried to grab as many children as he could to help them flee.
"I'm in a sports store and I'm shopping — I'm buying a jersey," he told NBC News affiliate KTSM in El Paso. "A little kid runs in talking about there's an active shooter at Walmart."
He said he didn't believe the child at first, but when he walked out into a corridor to continue shopping at a nearby Foot Locker, he heard gunfire.
"I got my license to carry, so I pulled my gun out," Oakley said. "I just started to hide."
The Foot Locker closed down as a precaution, he said, but scared shoppers tried to pry their way inside.
Oakley said he ran to a parking lot.
"And I see a whole bunch of kids just running around, you know, without their parents and stuff," he said. "So I get my bag in my hand I try to pick up as many as I can."
Some, he said, jumped "out of my hands."
"Ain’t much I can do for the kids," he said. "So I just made my way out."
Police stopped him because he had a weapon, Oakley said, but they let him go after he proved he had his weapon legitimately.
"I was worried about those kids, man," he said. "I wasn't even worried about myself."