Angela McQueen school shooting
Angela McQueen single-handedly took down a would-be mass murderer who brought a gun to school. It has not been "happily ever after" for her. (Courtesy John Boch)
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The Illinois-based grassroots gun rights group Guns Save Life holds meetings in seven cities across Illinois each month. For the September meeting in Charleston, we welcomed local hero Angela McQueen as our main speaker. Back in 2017, she thwarted a mass shooting at central Illiniois’ Mattoon High School by wresting a .40 S&W pistol from a deranged student intent upon murder.

From CNN:

The shots were first heard Wednesday morning in the Mattoon High School cafeteria. Angela McQueen, a teacher, and a school resource officer headed to the cafeteria to investigate.

It was there, inside the large room, that McQueen and the resource officer saw the male student spraying gunfire.

McQueen sprung into action and took down the student as fellow pupils and staff fled, Larry Lilly, supt. for Mattoon Community Unit School District 2, said at a news conference this week. The school resource officer then stepped in and disarmed the student.

“Lives were saved by a quick response of a teacher here,” Mattoon Police Chief Jeff Branson said during the news conference. “If that teacher had not responded as quickly as they had, I think the situation would have been a lot different.”

One student was struck by gunfire that day, he said. The student was found in the school’s parking lot and hospitalized, where he is recovering.

She initially shunned the spotlight, but word of her heroic response to a horrific situation quickly spread through town and she still receives heart-felt thank yous and well-wishes from parents of students past and present. Today, she speaks about the event, mostly about the aftermath, as part of her coping mechanism to the mental trauma of that day.

One might think doing something heroic might lead to a “happily ever after.” In reality, as McQueen told the Guns Save Life audience, it has been anything but.

In a presentation that proved quite emotional at times for the audience, she described what happened, briefly before moving on to how it’s negatively impacted her life.

A young man, she would learn that day, had brought a pistol to school intent on killing a girl and who knows how many others who he felt had wronged him. McQueen got word that someone might have a gun only moments before things went sideways.

Recalling that day, she said she looked around the cafeteria and didn’t see any supervisory staff or the school resource officer present. She knew she had to take action, but she didn’t know exactly what or how.

McQueen said she didn’t want to leave the situation to get a supervisor, but instead opted to approach the potential gun-toting teen. As she approached and started to call for help on her phone, she recalled how she could tell by the body language of the students that something was terribly wrong. She moved faster.

Sure enough, the kid produced the gun just as she approached him from behind. She lunged and grabbed for the gun. While he sat at the cafeteria table, McQueen said she grabbed his gun arm and pushed it away from the direction of the girl the would-be killer had targeted first. The first shot broke an instant after she made contact with the killer’s arm.

Standing over six feet tall, she lifted his arm towards the ceiling and struggled for what seemed like forever with the kid for control of the .40 S&W handgun. As they fought for control of the pistol, the young man fired seven more times, with the gun close to her face. Fortunately, the rounds all went high, mostly into the ceiling.

Finally, the shots stopped. She recognized the gun was at slide lock and then she “took him down” until the school resource officer could arrive and handcuff the teen.

The first round fired missed the intended victim thanks to McQueen’s actions, but it inadvertently struck another young man. That round went through his phone and his hand, and ultimately through his shoulder as well. He survived, although he still has some minor problems with feeling in that hand after a whole lot of reconstructive surgeries, along with some mobility issues.

The would-be mass murderer? Illinois let him out of juvenile prison less than a year later.  Unbelievably, when the state wanted to return him to the community, locals objected and he has since been placed elsewhere.

Angie said to this day she struggles in the aftermath. She’s troubled by the would-be killer’s lack of remorse. What’s more, McQueen says she feels a lot of anger as well. “I didn’t sign up for this,” she said at least three times.

Angela McQueen school shooting
Angela McQueen talks about the profound changes in her life in the aftermath of her experience taking down a would-be mass murderer in her school. (Courtesy John Boch)

She described the immediate aftermath as utterly overwhelming. Her mind simply couldn’t process all that happened after the near-death experience. Painfully recalling the events, she said she had a hard time thinking about anything.

While she escaped any obvious physical injury, she has hearing loss and tinnitus from the gunshots near her face and head. “I’ve simply had to get used to it,” she noted.

Mentally she didn’t fare much better. She has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

To this day, she describes it as impacting her thinking and her ability to concentrate. “My brain feels different, almost foggy,” she said. She doesn’t like the COVID mask mandates because she can’t read people’s faces.  Clearly she recognizes that reading those students faces that day allowed her to recognize something terrible was about to happen.

In coping with her PTSD, she credits her faith in God, writing in a journal, counseling, some private groups of fellow violence survivors, along with her dogs. Recognizing that life’s energy has a priceless value all of its own, she says she has re-tooled her spare time.

McQueen stepped away from her work in the teachers’ union leadership and as the school’s golf coach. Today she concentrates on things she feels make a true difference in other people’s lives. One of those involves doing what she can to help other survivors cope with the aftermath of tragedy and return to some semblance of normalcy.

She also said that talking to supportive folks helps, too. In fact, she said that was the biggest takeaway from the initial counselors that police and the school provided for those closest to the near-disaster.

“Don’t keep it bottled up inside,” they told her. It was one of the few messages that actually made it through the crazy hours and days in the immediate aftermath.

Angela McQueen school shooting
Plenty of folks came up following the meeting to personally thank Angela McQueen for her actions that fateful day in 2017. (Courtesy John Boch)

Our own Justin Bawcum, GSL’s Charleston Regional Co-Director, chimed in as well with some of his own coping mechanisms. Bawcum is a survivor of some harrowing combat experiences in Afghanistan and then later of the Fort Hood massacre.

The Islamist terrorist killer at Fort Hood, now on death row, was Bawcum’s doctor and Justin had just arrived in the parking lot for his appointment as part of coming back to America from service in Afghanistan. His truck took a couple of rounds the crazed terrorist fired at Bawcum before moving on to other, easier targets of opportunity.

Bawcum advised Angie (and any other survivors of violence) not to second-guess her actions or to “overthink” what happened.

“You did what you needed to do and you knew it might not end well,” he said in front of the crowd. “You did well and parents around here are very grateful you were there that day.”

McQueen admitted that she feels really badly for the young man who was shot. To some degree she blames her own actions — after all, he wasn’t the intended target and was only shot because of her intervention.

At the same time, that young man’s parents (and the young man himself) have thanked her profusely for what she did that day, noting that there could have been untold numbers of fatalities, including the wounded young man, if McQueen hadn’t acted in the manner she did.

McQueen noted how people will recognize her in public and thank her out of the blue. “Sometimes it takes me an instant or two to remember why they’re saying ‘thank you’,” she explained. Other people just look at her and talk among themselves, likely reluctant to approach her.

Asked, “How do you reach out to someone in the aftermath of something like this?” she said just talk to them and watch the body language. “If they seem okay, just keep it simple.” Simple as in, “Hi. We’re so glad you survived. Thank you. Is there anything I/we can do to help you?”

“And if they’re uneasy, just back away,” she said.

In the end, the audience — some wiping away tears — gave her a lengthy standing ovation.

 

John Boch is the Executive Director of Guns Save Life.

 

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59 COMMENTS

  1. None of us signs up for this sort of encounter except for those who volunteer for the police or armed forces. As Angela learned, that doesn’t make us invulnerable. The choice is the bad guy’s, not ours. Angela did extraordinarily well without qualification. Her PTSD I can understand. The incident was a shock to her system that slid in underneath her rational though processes. Still, what she needs is to be told how well she did over and over again until she accepts it herself.

  2. Hang in there lady! You ARE a heroine. I witnessed a tussle at my kid’s high school some 10 years ago. Large black teen against a tiny dude. The little guy kicked his azz. Taken away in handcuffs in Cook county. You’d think “you didn’t sign up for this”but 50 years ago we had race riot’s in Kankakee,ILL. No guns but knives,bricks,chairs and whatever. My brother got hit by a chair. A teacher got hurt too.

  3. An excellent case for mandatory safe storage laws. Where did this kid get the gun? If it was his parents gun they should have had the book thrown at them, heavily fined and have had to spend jail time and lost their right to ever own a gun for life. No fking excuses, no second chances. This is how you deal with irresponsible adult gun owners of whom there are just far to many these days.

    The kid should have been jailed, given a prison sentence and given mandatory psychiatric care as well and banned from owning a firearm for life. Believe me the rest of the kids at school are not dummies by any means and it would send a clear message to both other kids and their parents that if you screw up you pay the price and you pay heavily.

    Schools need more security as well because things are not getting any better. With the break down of family life due to the take over by the Capitalvanian greed mongers who broke high paying union jobs and shipped most high paying jobs overseas the pressure cooker of living and the resulting high divorce rates have skyrocketed and teenagers seeing what kind of future life in in store for them have increased their suicide rates to an all time high making safe storage laws all the more desperately needed as well as affordable mental health care.

    Of course the greed monger gangster criminal Republicans have constantly blocked affordable health care while giving corporations billions in free hand out corporate subsidies. The Republicans have always been the gun owners worst enemies blocking Universal Background Checks, safe storage laws and affordable health care.

    The Republicans behind closed doors know its way cheaper just to ban guns than spend the money on health care, child care for working mothers, and educational grants. They only fool the ignorant hillbillies who vote for the very people who are destroying their lives through blind greed and corruption.

    This is Capitalvania in the 21st century, the most corrupt and most violent industrialized country on the planet. Small wonder both European and Asian people are too terrified to even come here on vacation anymore. Dodge city and the OK corral shoot out were a Sunday school picnic compared to todays blood and carnage and rivers of blood flowing in the streets. Even Wyatt Earp would today be wearing a bullet proof vest just to go to the grocery store or even his own mail box at the end of the drive way.

    • Dacian clearly has lot of spare time.

      The question I have for Dacian (not that I’d ever get a straight reply): How much are they paying you to troll this website with junk science and fake news? Or is is junk news and fake science?

      • darcian is a pasty mouth disgruntled dirty diaper democRat prone to slander and libel people with farfetched imaginary guilt by association. In other words it proves itself to be a marxist who’ll say or do anything to advance their cause. A cause someone forgot to flush.

    • And the perp was released under the same Progressive policies you claim other countries have. You can’t have it both ways.

    • pfft “safe” storage.
      99% of safes can be breached by 20 minutes and a $20 Harbor Freight angle grinder.

      Speaking of tools, Dacian….

      • Wrong again. Criminals do not know how long you will be gone and they are mostly morons who are smash and grab people. Loud alarms and safes slow them down and panic them. Nothing is fool proof but I know people who have had break-ins and not one gun was stolen simply because of the above practices which should be mandatory in all homes with guns.

        Even gun some stores do not have safe storage but never the less one dramatic robbery was when the crooks rented a back hoe and smashed in a wall. The guns were just sitting there waiting to be loaded up. The video of the robbery showed how frightened the criminals were as they stuffed bags full of pistols, took a few long guns and ran with the lot in only a couple of minutes. Safe storage would have foiled their attempt if the gun store had had a good strong Diebold type safe or even a walk in gun safe.

        Now I realize trying to get such simple concepts into the Neanderthal skulls of the Far Right is as big a challenge as getting the morons to take covid shots but tough safe storage laws hit them where they understand it most, right in their greedy pocket books. The threat of even losing a penny makes the skin flints panic and squeeze their penny so hard it screams for mercy and that makes them take notice of the law immediately.

        • A gun safe prevented the STEM School shooting in Highlands Ranch, CO, which is why you’ve never heard of it. Oh wait, it didn’t prevent it ar all. “Safe storage” is only effective against toddlers and imbeciles. After the parents went to work, the murdering students broke open the safe. The Newtown murderer got his gun from lockup after murdering his mother. No safe is unbreakable — it just protects for a certain amount of time. The highest rating UL gives to a safe is 60 minutes against tools and torches, and that kind of safe weight tons and costs $10k+. They’re mainly found in jewelry stores with millions in inventory. Colorado recently passed “safe storage” despite being proven ineffective.

          You also brought up UBC. Are you suggesting the shooter purchased the gun through a legitimate source, despite being under age and not having an IL FOID card, which is essentially a pre-purchase background check.

          Dou you want to propose any other useless gun grabber boilerplate laws that wouldn’t have prevented the tragedy that’s supposedly the reason to pass them? Maybe “safe” personalized “smart gun,” except for government employees, since they never have families and their guns never get lost or stolen? Microstamping of the fired cartridges? Ammo background checks? Red flags?

        • They just roll down the list of approved talking points. You can’t expect them to actually think about it on their own. It’s the same thing on about any topic.

    • The kid gets a gun out of “safe” storage and goes on his rampage. The only sure way to stop this is to teach kids about guns and not to misuse them for private revenge. Some kids can’t or won’t learn and will get a gun wherever they must no matter how you try to stop them. Locking them away before their rampage or stopping them during it are the only solutions.

    • Affordable health care? Demanding free stuff at the taxpayers expense is the same entitled attitude that drives people to commit crimes and shoot girls for “wronging them”.

      The world doesn’t owe you shit buttercup. If you want something, work hard, save your money and pay for it yourself. If people can’t afford health care maybe they should take care of their bodies to reduce the risk of needing it, instead of using their SNAP to buy junk food and sugar drinks.

      • Your the type of Right Wing Moron who screams he wants to save a penny today and then go bankrupt tomorrow when you cannot afford life saving drugs or a life saving operation.

        No civilized industrial country should let Insurance Companies run the health care system for blind greed and profit. No matter what insurance plan you have if you think they are going to bail you out when you have a serious disease or need life saving drugs or a life saving operation you need to have your head examined.

        Under Trump the gangster criminal republicans eliminated taxes on most large corporations and of course on themselves. That amounted to 2 trillion plus dollars. Amazon which is just one corporation made 2 billion in profit and paid not one penny in taxes and gave not one penny to its employees out of that profit. Now tell me we cannot afford a health care plan if the rich were required to pay taxes instead of dumping all the expense of running the country onto the backs of the poor working people.

        Lets face facts you deserve some of your tax dollars back when you are in trouble and that is called living in a civilized society not ruthless Capitalvania that lets people die like dogs in the street when they cannot even afford old fashioned paid for drugs like insulin.. No civilized nation tolerates such insanity.

        Right now all of your tax dollars get stolen from you by people and corporations that pay no taxes in the form of Corporate subsidies. Why give your tax dollars to them when it is they that never paid any taxes to begin with.

        And I will not even go in to the Military Industrial Complex that since the Vietnam war steals 54 cents of every one of your tax dollars. They sure gave you a good return for your money during the 10 years in Vietnam (1 trillion)and 20 years in Afghanistan (5.8 trillion)

        Lets face facts if smaller nations like the ones in Europe and in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea etc, etc. do indeed tax the rich and do not conduct endless wars of rape, pillage and conquest so they can and have afforded health care for decades so do not bullshit me that the U.S. could not do the same. If you believe the lying greed monger criminal Republicans when they say we cannot afford it then you probably believe in the tooth fairy, and that TV evangelists need your money.

        When Trump called African countries shit hole countries and pointed his finger at them he had 3 of this own fingers pointed right back at the biggest shit hole industrialized country on earth, Capitalvania. Did you know some African countries have lower infant mortality than West Virginia does.

        Civilized nations take responsibly to take care of their own people except in Capitalvania where you are considered expendable and exploitable into bankruptcy and to be sacrificed on the greed monger Republican alter dedicated to the rich and power criminals who run the country.

        And by the way genius Conservative did you know the corrupt Congress people get State paid for health care and drug care and you do not. And you pay for their health care with your tax dollars and get none back for yourself.

        • Well you are right about the rich fleecing the poor.
          But that’s the way its always been and it dont matter what country you live in.

        • Not in China at the moment. They are about to start “Cultural Revolution 2.0”.

          Already the confessions are being forced.

        • I’m old enough to remember when Obama was going to make the rich give to the poor. Then we had 8 years of record growth for the rich, and record stagnation for the bottom half. Then someone else came in with different ideas, and we had the first raise for the working class in years, along with record economic growth for minorities. The rich still did great because they will always do great. They control the lawmakers, especially the Democrats. Now stupid government policy has wiped out the gains made by the working class, and the current government is doubling down on stupid policy.

    • “An excellent case for mandatory safe storage laws.”

      *Bzzzzt!*.

      You *lose* (as usual).

      ‘Safe storage laws’ were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SCotUS) years back with the ‘Heller’ DC case.

      “No fking excuses, no second chances. This is how you deal with irresponsible adult gun owners of whom there are just far to many these days.”

      I fully agree on that one.

      Lock up and throw away the key on prohibited persons found in the possession of convicted felons.

      Of course, that will mean the cleaning out of the inner-city thugs that commit the majority of firearm crimes.

      Oops – That will be seen as irrefutable proof of racism in the criminal courts.

      They can’t be seen as that!

      • To Gee-off his rocker

        quote————-‘Safe storage laws’ were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SCotUS) years back with the ‘Heller’ DC case.————-quote

        Wrong, that was over making the weapon inoperable not locking it up loaded or assembled ready to load.

        Massachusetts is the only state that requires that all firearms be stored with a lock in place; California, Connecticut, and New York impose gun locking requirements in certain situations.

        According to the California Attorney General, the safest way to store a gun is with a state-approved firearm safety device and by keeping the weapon in a locked container. Owners should also ensure that the firearm is not loaded. Finally, people should store their guns and ammunition for these guns in different locations.

        California gun laws further require owners to make sure that a gun is stored unloaded and in a place not accessible by children and adults prohibited from possessing a gun. This is required per Penal Code 25100 PC. A violation of this statute can result in a misdemeanor charge and lead to custody in county jail for up to one year. These penalties increase if the child/adult does access the gun and causes injury or death.

        NEXT TIME RESEARCH FIRST BEFORE SHOOTING OFF YOUR BIG MOUTH AS USUAL.

        • “California gun laws further require owners to make sure that a gun is stored unloaded and in a place not accessible by children and adults prohibited from possessing a gun.”
          And recent events prove that those laws to be ineffective.
          From the LA Times on 9/10/21 – “4 students arrested at Santa Clarita’s Hart High after one allegedly brought gun to school”
          Laws only work on folks who follow the laws to begin with and wouldn’t be breaking laws against murder, discharging a firearm in public, etc.
          A new law requiring all firearms to be stored in bank safe deposit boxes would only be followed by law abiding citizens, not those who would bring a gun to school to murder someone.

    • Good grief. It’s a SPRITUAL and MORAL issue. When I was growing up there were guns everywhere. People’s closets, their vehicles. I remember walking down the street with my .22 to the edge of town to go shooting with my friends. No one batted an eye.

      And no one killed anyone else, despite years-long grudges and common fist fights. People couldn’t have even conceived of mass shootings.

      It’s the rising tide of filth, degeneracy, and evil since that cesspit of a time known as “the Sixties” that is causing this. “Safe storage laws” won’t solve anything. It is the hearts of people that need to change.

  4. Wow. Just wow. What an amazing story and frankly, the unexpected aftermath. I think I’d like people like Angela McQueen in my kids’ school. Unfortunately, I doubt they have her courage and tenacity.

  5. She suffers from the same thing a lot of true heroes suffer from. They (and we) believe that “heroes” are somehow perfect people. They’re not, of course. They’re just regular people, put in extraordinary situations beyond their control, and responded with enormous courage. But at the end of the day, they’re just people like everyone else.
    God bless her.

  6. That’s Illinois I guess.
    14 year old tries to murder people.
    Shows appalling lack of remorse.
    Sentenced at age 15 as a juvenile.
    Well, we locked him up until 21, or at least 18, right?

    WRONG.

  7. Interesting that the quick summary from CNN and her recitation do not even seem to be about the same incident. Probably about par for that has-been “news” agency.

  8. “She doesn’t like the COVID mask mandates because she can’t read people’s faces. Clearly she recognizes that reading those students faces that day allowed her to recognize something terrible was about to happen.”

    Oh, great Something for a potential demented mass-shooter to exploit… 🙁

    • There’s a good reason why antifa and their ilk were all wearing masks long before the government ordered everyone to do it. Makes me wonder which black bloc tactic our caring overlords will try to make us adopt next…

    • The ‘union’ had *nothing* to do with that brave woman’s actions, it was her and her actions alone that saved lives.

      Take your ‘union’ poison and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine… 🙁

      • quote————–Take your ‘union’ poison and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine—————quote

        You Far Right Morons really take the cake. Unions gave you the 40 hour work week, overtime pay, paid vacations, holidays off and health coverage and much safer working conditions and a decent livable wage. Mostly all gone now after Reagan broke the Unions.

        The Miners revolt in West Virginia in the early 1900’s was a horror story that shocked the entire world when out of control Capitalvanians deliberately created “unincorporated areas” which gave them the only right to police it and murder people at will in front of their wives and children if they tried to form unions, They even murdered two top Union Officials in broad daylight on the Capitol steps in front of their wives and even forbade the workers to travel out of the county to go shopping for cheaper food and cloths rather than shop in company mine stores which ripped them off. In other words they were Capitalvanian slaves.

        But what would an uneducated hill jack like you know about union history and what they did for the working man as at one time everyone’s wages were based on what was paid in Union shops.

        And for decades strong Unions were able to pay off corrupt Congressmen so that high Tariff laws were kept in place to protect the American worker from cheap, shoddily made foreign goods. Today everything you buy is garbage and made in China, thank Reagan for that when he broke the unions and they lost so many jobs and workers they could no longer prevent the corrupt Congressmen from doing away with Tariffs.

        Yes only a complete uneducated right wing idiot like you would bad mouth unions. When the brains were passed out you hid behind the out house door. Save a penny today by not joining a union and receive dirt cheap starvation wages with no overtime, no holidays off ,no vacation time and no benefits or safe working conditions. Welcome to Capitalvania the shit hole of the Industrialized world.

        • “..strong Unions were able to pay off corrupt Congressmen..”

          “…he broke the unions and they lost so many jobs and workers they could no longer prevent the corrupt Congressmen from doing away with Tariffs.”

          So, you’re in favor of bribing politicians to get legislation you like passed?

          I’ll bet you’ve never paid any union dues – you have to have a job to do that.

        • i know what you mean but i have friends paying union dues who are out of work. just gotta be a member.
          municipal unions have little to do with private sector ones.
          teach from the beach, eh?

    • This perp will go on to succeed the next time he attempts murder. You can’t fix evil, you can only kill or contain it. He should have been tried as an adult and put in prison for the maximum.

      Oh, and public sector unions should have been outlawed from the start, that goes double for teachers unions.

  9. We need to stop breaking our children with Statist-indoctrination camps/government subsidized daycare.

    3-4 hours a day, 2-3 days a week to teach them the essential stuff is all that is needed. Let them be kids FFS. We’re putting too much on them and the social strain of large schools with long hours was bad enough before social media existed. Now they’re under literal psychological assault from all sides during all waking hours of the day.

    But we’re all so busy breaking our backs and scratching for scraps working for a living anymore to realize that this living life one weekend at a time crap has got to stop. And that starts with a sound economy with sound currency and fiscal policy.

    Once we have that, we can all work less and earn more. Live more. We should ease kids into adulthood instead of dropping them into the pressure-cooker we’ve got going on right now.

  10. Guns save lives when potential shooters realize the location is not a soft target due to concealed carriers. Illinois schools have a no gun policy so the shooter knew he could wait until the school resource officer was out of the way. (Not sure if SRO was armed, doesn’t matter.) He did not consider that a true hero in the form of Angie McQueen would stop him. GSL salutes Angie McQueen, teacher of the year.

  11. ALL STARTED CAUSE OF PUPPY DOG LOVE , HIGH SCHOOL GUY N GAL .
    GLAD SHE HELPED STOP IT .
    KIDIOS NEED SOME GUIDE IN LOVE MATTERS IF HAVE A BRAIN THAT TUNES IN .

    • Puppy dog love? …I think that’s just “puppy love”.
      And No, the girl he was going to shoot, she gave the shooter wanna be an incurable STD, so it was revenge and not love lost.

  12. Moral of the story – if you take down a school shooter, kill the SOB, otherwise some liberal democrat judge will turn him loose. Dead dirtbags do not commit any more crimes

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