CINCINNATI -- Grateful and thankful. Those two words sum up how Waller Austin is feeling four days after his wife, Whitney Austin, was shot 12 times in the deadly attack at Fifth Third Center last week.
Austin, a Fifth Third Bank vice president, was one of five victims shot in the Downtown shooting. She is one of only two survivors.
“We are still unpacking how she survived the initial assault,” Waller Austin said in a written statement, “Especially after the shooter returned to fire more rounds into her body, which was riddled with more than a dozen wounds.”
Along with the written statement, the Austin family released a new photo of Whitney and Waller standing together in a hospital room -- and smiling. Whitney’s right arm is completely wrapped in bandages.
Austin said she was in the middle of a conference call, her iPhone to her ear, when she stepped into the path of flying bullets Thursday.
Waller Austin thanked the Cincinnati Police Department -- specifically the first officers who arrived at the scene.
“To officers Jennifer Chilton, Gregory Toyeas, Antonio Etter, and Eric Kaminsky -- I will be forever in your debt,” he said. “My wife is alive today because you refused allow the shooter to continue his rampage.”
The shooter was shot and killed at the scene, police said.
Waller Austin also thanked Cincinnati Officer Al Staples who carried his wife Whitney to safety. Austin said Staples has checked in on his family several times over the past few days. He went on to thank members of the fire department, paramedics, doctors and nurses at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and Fifth Third Bank.
“Fifth Third takes care of its employees and I am awed by not only the corporation’s commitment to Whitney, but also by her family of colleagues including mentors and managers who sat by my side in the SICU (surgical intensive care unit) along with my family and friends to give whatever support they could,” he said.
According to Waller Austin, his wife never saw the gunman. Austin previously said she slumped over her laptop bag, and grabbed her cellphone to call her husband.
Waller Austin said he’s comforted knowing his wife was never the target of the shooting.
“He never consciously shot at Whitney Austin,” he said, “He was just shooting at the closest human target. This brutal assault was not personal, it was sick.”
Three male victims died in the shooting: Richard Newcomer, Prudhi Raj Kandepi and Luis Felipe Calderón. Waller Austin called the men “truly exceptional people,” and said, “my heart aches for their families.”
Speaking to the victims, Waller Austin said he and his wife are on a mission to end “this nonsense.”
“We are committed to amplifying the conversation about gun access, especially in reference to mental health,” he said.
Austin said there will be a fund set up for his family to assist with unforeseen medical expenses as well as a separate non-profit fund to further their mission to protect innocent people from gun violence.