A teacher is being hailed as a hero after she took down a student gunman who opened fire in a high school cafeteria Wednesday morning in Illinois, wounding another student.
Angela McQueen, 40, a physical education teacher, stopped the shooter after he brought a gun into the Mattoon High School’s cafeteria about 11:30 a.m. She was identified as the heroic teacher by the Nokomis Free Press-Progress newspaper and several members of the community.
The shooter, who has not been identified, was taken into custody at the scene and the victim was hospitalized, but is expected to survive, authorities said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. McQueen Took Down the Shooter in the Cafeteria After a Student Was Shot
Angela McQueen disarmed and detained by a teacher before police arrived, police said. The shooting occurred in the cafeteria of Mattoon High School. One student was shot before the gunman was taken down, but is expected to survive.
“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.”
Dallas Cunningham, a 14-year-old freshman, told the Decatur Herald & Review he was in the building when the shots were fired. “It was pretty scary,” he told the newspaper. “I was in class and they had us all move out fast.”
2. The Student Was Taken Into Custody & the Victim Is in Stable Condition
Officers who arrived at the scene found students running from the school and a chaotic scene, with at least one injured person in a parking lot area. Police were searching for other victims, but according to officials, no other victims were believed to be found. Police have not released other details about the victim, including his or her 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.”
The shooter was initially described as a white male with a white T-shirt and a shotgun, according to 911 callers The shooting is believed to have occurred inside the school in the cafeteria area, according to police scanner reports.
At least one person was reported to be injured in the shooting, WCIA-TV reports. According to WCIA reporter Kaitlyn Connolly, the victim is a student and is in stable condition at a local hospital.
According to police scanner transmissions, several officers rushed to the school to respond to a call reporting shots fired at 11:33 a.m. “I have a 911 call, shots fired at the high school,” the dispatcher told the Mattoon officers. You can listen to the scanner audio below, courtesy of Broadcastify.com. It has been edited by Heavy to remove identifying information about possible suspects and witnesses:
The dispatcher told responding officers that a caller in a woman’s bathroom at the school reported hearing what she believed to be “shots fired in the area.” The dispatcher said the caller said the shots seemed to be coming from the main hallway inside the school. At least one ambulance was also dispatched to the school for a “gunshot wound.”
Callers told the 911 dispatcher that at least four shots were fired in the area of the school’s cafeteria. One victim was taken from the scene by ambulance, and officers followed another blood trail to look for a second victim, but police do not believe any one else was injured. The suspect was reported to be in custody about 10 minutes after officers responded.
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A police Crisis Response Team was at the scene, along with officers from multiple departments, including the Charleston Police Department, Eastern Illinois University Police and Illinois State Police. A medical helicopter was also called to the scene on standby, but it is not clear if any patients were transported in it. More than 100 police officers responded to the scene, WCIA-TV reports.
3. McQueen Has Been a Teacher at the High School for More Than a Decade
McQueen has worked at Mattoon High School for more than a decade, as both a math teacher and a PE teacher, according to her bio on the school website. The website says she has worked there for 10 years, but that appears to be outdated, as an article in the local newspaper lists her as a teacher in 2001.
McQueen was part of a group of school staff members who started the B.I.O.N.I.C. (Believe it or not I Care) program at the school in 2014. Sponsored by the local rotary club, she helped create a service-learning program aimed at “creating strong communities,” according to the school website. McQueen has also been part of the grief team at the high school.
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Before starting working at Mattoon High School, she worked for one year at Danville 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.”
Scott also praised others at the school and in the community for their response.
“The rest of the school staff, police, and emergency responders have kicked ass making this chaos go as good as possible. A huge shout out of love and gratitude to all of you as well!” he wrote. “To the people who saw students running away from the school. You who opened your doors to provide safety to those kids. I can’t tell you how much I love you right now. You rock, and all of you are unsung heroes too!”
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4. She Says She Became a Teacher ‘To Make the World a Better Place’
McQueen says on the high school’s website that she wanted to become a teacher because she, “wanted to make the world a better place. There are so many negative influences in the world. I wanted to provide a positive role model as well as try to make math fun and engaging for students.”
She went to Eastern Illinois University, graduating with degrees in mathematics and physical education. She then got her master’s degree in education administration, also at Eastern Illinois.
McQueen lives in Mattoon. She wrote on the school website that her favorite vacation spot is “Any place warm with a pool/lake/ocean.”
She has been hailed as a hero for her actions Wednesday.
“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.
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“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.
5. The School District Is Providing Counseling to Students & Staff After the Shooting
Students were bused to another location, Riddle Elementary School, where they will later be reunited with parents, according to the Mattoon Journal Gazette & Times-Courier.
“All students will be bussed to Riddle School. Parents may pick up their students there,” the school district says.
“Mattoon High School students will be able to pick up their cars at 5 p.m. today but they will NOT be allowed in the building,” the district said. “Due to the ongoing investigation, the public will not be allowed into the buildings. Students may pick up their belongings tomorrow. (Sept. 21).”
Mattoon Township has a population of about 15,000 people. There are about 1,000 students at the high school. The town is located in east central Illinois, about three hours south of Chicago.
All other schools in the district were put on lockdown after the shooting. “As a precaution, all buildings are on soft lockdown. Release times are as normal schedule,” the district said in a Facebook post.
“We are saddened that this event has happened and we will provide counseling to students in need. We will continue to work with emergency personnel to determine what happened,” the school district said. “We appreciate the quick response of school staff and first-responders. Most importantly, we offer our thoughts and prayers to the injured student and all who are affected by this tragedy.”
The school district said the high school will be open on Thursday, September 21, but will have an early dismissal. Counselors and others will be at the school and parents will be allowed to keep their children home with an excused absence:
Mattoon High School will operate on an early dismissal schedule Sept. 21. The high school will be dismissed at 12:09 pm. Lunch will not be served at the high school. All other Mattoon school buildings will have regularly scheduled hours. Parents of any district student who wish to keep their children at home will be given excused absences. Counselors, clergy, and police officers will be available for students and staff to provide comfort and counseling. Updates will be available on the district website and Facebook page. Please keep everyone involved in your thoughts and prayers.
Mattoon Police Chief Jeff Branson told reporters, “This is a horrific incident for us today.”