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Hero of Virginia Beach Mass Shooting Was Killed After He Left Safety of Locked Room to Help Others

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What would you do in a high-pressure, life-or-death situation? I doubt that most of us really know until that moment comes — and we can only pray that it never will.

When a man from Virginia Beach, Virginia, faced just such a moment on May 31, he acquitted himself in the most valiant way possible.

According to CBS News, the situation occurred when a 40-year-old city employee stormed the Virginia Beach Municipal Center and opened fire.

The now-infamous shooter ended up murdering 12 people, 11 of them city employees. He also wounded a police officer.

In the end, authorities stopped him after a long firefight. Other than the terrible body count, one of the most horrifying things about the incident was how long it took for survivors to find cover.

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In a follow-up report, CBS News stated Christi Dewar initially believed that the woman who ran down the hall yelling, “Active shooter,” was part of a drill. She could hear the popping sound of gunshots.

Building contractors were working in the facility, and she thought that was the sound of a nail gun. Only as the sounds continued did she and coworker Ryan Keith Cox begin searching for shelter.

Confused by conflicting reports about the shooter’s location, Dewar and a number of other employees eventually went into an office. One of those individuals was Tara McGee.

“It was actually a cubicle, basically, a room that was nothing but a frame and carpet,” McGee told People. That was when Cox commanded them to shut the door and barricade it with a cabinet — leaving him outside.

“Keith being Keith, he’s looking after everyone else, as he always does,” McGee said. “He was going to make sure everyone was safe.”

As the group listened, they heard shots ring out right next to them, two of which were stopped by the cabinet. Eventually, police arrived and led the survivors to safety.

As they walked them out, authorities told them not to look to the right. “But I did look to the right, and there was Keith, lying still on the floor,” McGee said.

“Whenever he’d pass me in the morning he’d say, ‘Preacher, what’s the word for the day?’” McGee recalled. “And I would reply, ‘God loves you’ and he would say, ‘God loves you too.'”

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“I’d asked God to send an angel of protection and he had. He chose Keith.”

Dewar struggled to even make it out of the building, breaking down when police told her to step over the covered body of one of her coworkers. But she finally lifted her gaze up from the floor and made it out.

In an interview with The Virginian-Pilot, Dewar added, “You knew from the start he would lay down his life for anybody. And that’s exactly what he did.”

When Dewar contacted her mother to tell her what happened, she praised her fallen coworker, calling him an instrument of God. “When I told her what Keith did, she said, ‘God had a guardian angel walking the earth with Keith,'” Dewar recalled.

“‘Keith was your guardian angel, baby and don’t you ever forget.’ And we never will.”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
Wheaton College
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