DALLAS — The mother who was shot through the leg in Thursday’s sniper attacks in Dallas described her sorrow over the shootings as well as her gratitude for the officers who protected her and her four sons.
Shetamia Taylor spoke to reporters on Sunday from a wheelchair as she prepared to return home from Baylor University Medical Center. Though her outlook is good, doctors expect it will be two months before her leg heals enough to stand on. In the Thursday shooting that left five dead and seven wounded, a bullet struck her in the calf, traveling through the bone before exiting her shin.
“If it was going to happen to one of my sons it was going to have to happen to me first,” she said. “And it only happened to me, so I’m thankful for that.”
As a mother to young black men, Taylor said she had been thinking about the recent deaths of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, as well as previous shootings. She and her children discussed the necessity of complying with police and the importance of acting with respect when she got home on Thursday, and she asked if they wanted to join the rally and march in downtown Dallas.
“I wanted to show them we can be unified, that there could be a peaceful march,” she said. “And it was nice. It really was peaceful. It was very informative, the kids had a good time.”
They decided to leave early to beat traffic since she was scheduled to work early the next day. Walking up Main Street, they stopped at a corner where a police officer had blocked traffic, waiting to cross.
“We heard a shot,” she said. “And we all looked. We didn’t know what it was because it was so close to Fourth of July.”
A second shot fired, and the police officer in front of them slumped down.
“That second shot, as he was going down, he said, ‘He has a gun, run,’” she said. “And my kids started running. And I wanted to make sure that they were all in front of me.”
Jajuan, 14, took off in one direction. Kavion, 18, grabbed 12-year-old Jermar and looked for shelter behind a pillar of a parking garage. Andrew, 15, turned around to make sure their mother was close.
“He went to grab me, but I had already been shot, so I grabbed him and pushed him into the street,” she said.
They fell to the ground, Taylor covering her son’s body with her own. Another police officer appeared, asking if anyone had been shot. Andrew said no. His mother said yes.
“I look up, I see my mom’s leg bleeding,” he said. “I freak out. I didn’t know what to do.”
The officer jumped on top of them to provide more protection. Another took a place at their feet, another at their heads. Gunfire kept coming, it sounded like hundreds of shots, Taylor said.
“I saw another officer get shot right in front of me,” she said, breaking down in tears.
The shooting let up, possibly as the gunman moved to another position. The officers carried her into a squad car, rushing her and her son to the hospital.
“They were really heroes for us,” Taylor said. “They saved my life, they saved my son’s life, all of them.”
At the hospital, a scramble had begun to bring as many resources as possible.
“The first notice we had was that patrol cars arrived with the injured,” said Dr. Michael Foreman, medical director of trauma.
Employees who had just finished their shifts turned around their cars and returned to the facility. Others came from their homes.
“In times like these, you really realize how everyone pulls together as a team,” said Sherry Sutton, a nurse and emergency department manager.
As Taylor began to receive treatment — she would need surgery — the brothers worked to get to safety and find each other. Andrew made phone calls from the hospital. Kavion finally posted on Facebook as he and Jermar found safety inside a hotel tower — though it'd be hours before they could find a safe way out.
Jajuan had run several blocks when he crossed paths with a woman, her cousin's wife, and her children. On Sunday, he and Angie Wiser reunited with hugs and tears.
“They were as confused as I was,” he said. “So I asked her, what do we do? Where do we go?”
Wiser took him under her wing, thinking of her own sons, and they walked with them toward her truck, hoping to charge a phone enough to get in touch with his family. The way was blocked, though, and they were stranded until they found an apartment building. The residents invited them inside, and about an hour after the first gunshots, after trying every phone number he could think of, Jajuan was able to reach his cousin by Snapchat, who passed on a message to his brother.
Andrew went to his mother in the emergency room to tell her all three had been found, and they were all safe.
“Woo, just the praise, the praise I gave to God,” Taylor said.
Then she heard an officer standing nearby tell another that one officer didn’t make it.
Taylor broke down as she described the pain that news brought her alongside the celebration she felt for her own children’s safety.
“Of course I’m thankful that my babies are OK, but somebody’s dad, somebody’s husband isn’t.”
Taylor added that she’s always admired police officers, and that admiration has only increased. As the city moves forward, she hopes for better communication among people, more respect, a more thoughtful approach from all sides, and for people to come together.
“I’m just a mother and a wife,” she said. “I’m not an activist, I’m not a politician. I just want to protect my family.”
Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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