Four years after Fifth Third shooting, Kentucky survivor reunites with first responders who saved her

Al Staples, whitney austin reunite
Posted at 12:06 PM, Sep 07, 2022

On the morning of Sept. 6, 2018, a man holding a 9 mm handgun walked into Fifth Third Center and opened fire.

Omar Enrique Santa-Perez shot 35 rounds in four minutes and 28 seconds, killing three people and wounding two others. Cincinnati police arrived on scene almost immediately, and first responders did everything they could to help those shot.

Four years after the shooting, survivor Whitney Austin said she constantly thinks about those who didn't make it home.

"I get to be with my children, I get to be with my husband, I mean everyone I love — I've been given four bonus years," Austin said. "But on the flip side of that, I think about those who lost their lives on this day and how their family members have an entirely opposite experience."

Austin was shot 12 times and said she knows she would not be alive if it were not for those who got her to safety and worked on her at UC Medical Center. She said as she lay on the ground, trying to figure out what she could do to survive, officer Al Staples swooped in to get her out of the building. When she was taken to the hospital, medical professionals like Dr. Mike Goodman helped make sure she survived the shooting.

After a long road to recovery, Austin was able to reunite with Staples and Goodman four years after the day she thought could be her last.

Goodman, who has been called a hero and lifesaver, said he feels like there's still more work to do.

"We can sew things up, we can stop bleeding, we can fix broken bones, but we don't fix broken families," Goodman said. "And actually interacting with Whitney over the last four years has shown me a lot even in my career about the after-effects of the injuries."

Austin is an advocate against gun violence, forming Whitney Strong — a foundation focused on responsible gun ownership and ending violence — since the shooting. She said she will continue to push for changes that ensure no one has to go through what those at the Fifth Third Center did just four years earlier.