A teacher from Illinois tackled an active shooter in Mattoon High School on Wednesday morning. Angela McQueen, 40, is now being labelled a hero after subduing a gunman when he opened fire in the school cafeteria, wounding another student.
McQueen, a math and physical education teacher, tackled the student after he opened fire on a fleeing crowd of students at about 11:30 A.M. in Mattoon High School. She was identified as the heroic teacher by several members of the community, as well as WCIA-TV, and the Nokomis Free Press-Progress newspaper.
The shooter was taken into custody at the scene of the crime. He has not been identified because of his young age. The victim was hospitalized, but is expected to survive, according to authorities. He was “smiling, in stable condition, in good spirits and joked about catching some slack on his grades,” Larry Lilly, the superintendent of Mattoon schools said at a press conference.
“Lives were saved by the quick response of a teacher,” Police Chief Jeff Branson told reporters at a press conference. Branson suggested that if McQueen wasn’t there to save the day, “I think the situation would have been a lot different.”
Branson also said that the teacher was trained for an active shooting situation, but “You just don’t know what’s going to happen until it’s happened.”
The Mattoon superintendent said that the victims father “also asked that I pass along his prayers for the shooter’s family.”
A second student suffered an injury as a result of the shooting. Police say that he suffered a wound to his knuckles after being grazed by a bullet. However, this student was not hospitalized.
Angela McQueen sprang into action after witnessing an active shooting situation unfold before her very eyes. She tackled the gunman as he reportedly still had his finger on the trigger, causing him to fire bullets into the ceiling. Police Chief Jeff Branson said, at a press conference Wednesday night, that McQueen “overwhelmed” the shooter after he fired multiple shots into a crowd of students, injuring one and causing panic to many.
McQueen held down the student gunman while a school resource officer raced to the scene to help. The officer disarmed the student and held him in custody until other officers arrived at the school.
Alexis Perry said that the shooter’s finger was still on the trigger when he was tackled by McQueen. The student told WCIA-TV that McQueen saw “the gun come and she was going to tackle him and she did, and he still had his finger on the trigger and it was flying up and hitting the ceiling.”
The victim’s mother took to Facebook to vent about the ordeal, describing her son’s account of the shooting. “My son … was shot today in a school shooting. He was the only one injured and we are very blessed it’s not worse. As the shooter was raising his gun a PE teacher lunged for his arm as he got the first round off, hitting (the victim). She held his arm straight up and he fired 5-6 more rounds into the ceiling as she took him down. (The victim) was not specifically targeted. The bullet apparently grazed his left index finger then entered his left chest and exited out his back missing all organs.”
“The School Resource Officers and school officials headed to the cafeteria where they heard shots fired. The suspect fired shots in the school cafeteria, before he was subdued and disarmed,” the school district said in a statement. “Emergency procedures were activated and students and staff exited the high school. As a result of shots being fired, one student was injured. First-responders arrived, secured the facility, and transported the student to the hospital. The injured student’s parents were notified.”
Branson told reporters, “The school resource officer was nearby, he also helped subdue the individual, but I’ve got to tell you, but it was the school employee who took this on. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with her.”
The state’s attorney for Coles County, Brian Brower, told reporters, “I would also like to echo the commendations that Chief Branson said, the dedication, the action of the school employees, in particular the teacher, and the reaction by all law enforcement took this tragedy and contained it.”
When police arrived on the scene, they saw students in a panic, fleeing the school. Officers found an injured person in the parking lot, but didn’t find any other victims of the shooting. At this moment, police have not released any information about the arrested student, as a result of the shooter’s age.
“We believe this is the only suspect and he is in custody,” Mattoon Police Chief Jeff Branson told reporters, the Decatur Herald & Review reports. “I’m very confident about that.”
However, the shooter was originally described as a white male with a white shirt and a shotgun, according to 911 callers.
According to police scanner transmissions, several officers raced to the school to respond to a call reporting gun shots at 11:33 a.m. “I have a 911 call, shots fired at the high school,” the dispatcher told the Mattoon officers
One student suggested that the motive of the shooting is a direct result of bullying. The student’s post has since went viral in the school’s community:
As I scroll through my Facebook I see all kinds of posts, the comment sections filled with rumors and even jokes about what has taken place. It makes me sick that some my fellow classmates can’t take 2 seconds to realize how serious this situation is. Please understand that today a student decided that the only way to end the bullying that he’s been going through was to shoot his two bullies. I feel like I’m living in a nightmare. I never imagined something like this taking place at MHS. I was just arriving back from lunch when the shooting happened. Sadly I saw things today that I’ll never be able to unsee. I don’t want to return to school ever again. I feel scared of the classmates I’ve grown up with the past 12 years. I really don’t understand anything, but I am thankful that we have facility members like Ms.McQueen who are willing to put their life at risk to keep students safe. My heart goes to the victims and their families. I also hope that the shooter(s) understand what they’ve done today. I pray that people will take today’s event and learn from it. Please teach your children that bullying of any form is unacceptable.
However, police has not released information on a possible motive for the shooting.
Outpouring of Support for Angela McQueen, the hero teacher
One parents called McQueen “a rockstar” and praised her for her heroic actions that may have saved many lives in Mattoon High School.
“I’m being told the PE teacher McQueen stopped the shooter. If this is true, that woman should never pay for another drink or meal in this town again. Ever. That’s just the beginning. She’s a true bright light in this dark day. Treat her with due honor and gratitude,” parent Lonnie Scott wrote on Facebook. “That gun was pointing at my daughter and her friends when the teacher stopped the shooter. So McQueen is nothing short of honored rock star status in my home.”
WCIA-TV reports that signs were left at McQueen’s home by many residents, thanking the teacher and calling her a hero.
“Superwoman and hero, thank God for giving her courage and strength,” Tami Aumann Clymer, a teacher in a nearby school district, wrote on the Nokomis Free-Press Progress Facebook page.
“First and foremost. Ms McQueen you, young lady, are a hero. In every aspect of the word. To do what you did takes bravery that can’t be described and instinct that can’t be taught. Situations like this are fight or flight. You are amazing. Every person in this community owes you a drink or dinner. Your choice,” wrote Michelle Dellorso, who runs the Tuscola Citizens Against Bullying group.
“Just McQueen being the badass that she is,” Bri Nicole Lee wrote on Facebook.
“Angela McQueen saved many lives today #GirlPower,” wrote Shelby Thomas.
“If it wasn’t for that teacher, who knows how many more kids would have been shot! So thankful,” Jeremy Baker wrote on Facebook.
Who is Angela McQueen?
Angela McQueen has worked at Mattoon High School since 2001. She works as a math and physical education teacher. On Wednesday, she can add “hero” to her list of job titles.
In 2014, McQueen and a group of staff members created B.I.O.N.I.C. (Believe it or not I Care) program at the school. This service-learning program was aimed at “creating strong communities,” according to the school website.
McQueen also works as part of the grief team at the school.
Before McQueen worked at Mattoon High School, she also worked at Danville High School for one year. She graduated from Marshall High School in Marshall, Illinois, about 40 miles west of Mattoon, near the Indiana border.
“We in Marshall Illinois have always been proud of the sweet, kind, athletic, Christian girl named Angie McQueen and are not surprised at all to hear of her heroic action…she has always been a precious soul. Thanking God for her quick action,” Daralea Smith wrote on Facebook.
McQueen is an Illinois native, who has been regarded as a hero to many.