CINCINNATI – The Fifth Third Bank vice president shot 12 times in the deadly attack at the bank center on Fountain Square Thursday morning is now describing the horror of walking into a hail of bullets as she recovers from her first seven hours of surgery.
Whitney Austin was sitting up in her hospital room Saturday, with her husband of 12 years, Waller, at her side, massaging her swollen left hand, according to a statement released by Fifth Third. Austin said she is focused on gratitude, but she’ll never forget walking into the Fifth Third Center lobby during a random shooting that killed three others.
There was a moment after Austin walked into work through the revolving glass doors when she didn’t think she would survive.
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. The doors rotation seized. Austin slumped over, clutching her laptop bag. She said she could feel blood in her throat and had an instant fear that this was how her life would end.
“I thought for certain I was dying,” Austin said, according to the bank’s statement.
“But then I realized my left arm worked. And so did my brain. I’m alive,” she said.
She rolled to find her cell phone to call her husband and that’s when she was shot again.
“He [the shooter] saw me move is all I could think,” she said.
She saw police officers run by and yelled for help. Then she remembers officers, paramedics and strangers helping move her out of the doorway and on to Fountain Square.
She remembers telling them, “I have a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old and they need their mommy. I need to be OK.”
Since then, Austin has FaceTimed her children and they are doing well, according to the statement.
Austin, a senior product manager for digital lending, is based in Louisville and had driven to Cincinnati on Thursday for a meeting.
In a previous statement, she expressed her thanks to the first responders who rescued her.
Austin was in surgery for just under seven hours Friday to repair her right arm, which had been shot multiple times, according to Saturday’s statement. There will be more surgery and physical and occupational therapy, but for now she is focused on gratitude.
“I am so grateful, so incredibly grateful to be alive,” Austin said.
Austin is not ready to give media interviews, according to the statement. She is recovering at University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Another person, Brian Sarver, was also wounded in the attack. The three persons killed were 25-year-old Prudhvi Kandepi, 64-year-old Richard Newcomer and 48-year-old Luis Felipe Calderon. A public memorial for Kandepi is scheduled for Sunday.
Police said officers rushing to the scene shot and killed the shooter, identified as 29-year-old Omar Santa-Perez, of North Bend, Ohio. Police said they are still trying to determine a motive for the shootings.