MATTOON — Math teacher Angela McQueen said she was focused on saving students’ lives when she helped subdue a student shooter inside the Mattoon High School cafeteria on Sept. 20.
The Illinois Education Association (IEA) teachers union released a video Thursday of an interview it recently conducted with McQueen, who is a math and physical education teacher. The video was released on the same day that McQueen was honored at the high school for her lifesaving actions.
An IEA news release reported that because of McQueen’s quick response to contain the shooter, only one student was injured. The injured student was initially hospitalized but has since been released and is now back at school.
"I sprang into action because I looked over and I saw a student pulling a gun out and he was aiming it at students to his right," McQueen said during the interview. "I thought, 'Oh crap, he is going to start shooting,' so I immediately lunged at the gun and got the gun up in the air as quickly as I could, as fast as I could, because I didn't want him to hit the students."
McQueen said the shooter fired a couple of rounds before she was able to force him to point the gun up toward the ceiling of the cafeteria.
Officials with the Mattoon Police Department and the school district have said that Mattoon police school resource officer Kasey Alexander arrived in the cafeteria and took the shooter into custody shortly after McQueen’s actions.
“In that moment, you don’t really think. You just react. To me, it’s almost like the mama bear instinct. I don’t have kids of my own right now, but it’s the instinct of, ‘You’re not going to do this to my kids,’” McQueen said. “These are still my kids, even though I don’t know every single kid in there. You’re not going to do this to my kids. You’re not going to do this at my school.”
McQueen said she always has taken the active shooter training at the high school seriously, but she had thought a school shooting would never happen in Mattoon because it is such a nice, quiet small town.
"You never think it is going to happen where you are at," McQueen said.
Still, McQueen said she always has been mindful of the message in one of her favorite Bible verses, John 15:13 -- "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
"It was always in the back of my mind, 'Would I do this for just anybody?'" McQueen said of risking her life to save strangers. She added later, "Everybody, I think, would like to think they would do that for just anybody, and now I know I would."
A portion of McQueen’s interview was released on the IEA’s Facebook page on Thursday. Extended footage from the video shows McQueen visiting with students in the school cafeteria and the gymnasium, and at work in her classroom.
McQueen said in the interview that "I really just want to have a positive impact on kids. I felt like that was what I was meant to do. I feel like that even more now."
“We are forever grateful to Angela for her courageous actions that saved the lives of our kids. She was a ray of light in our darkest hour,” Mattoon district Superintendent Larry Lilly said in the press release.
McQueen was honored Thursday at the high school by the Illinois State Police, Illinois branch of the FBI, Society of Former Special Agents, City of Mattoon, Mattoon Police Department and the Mattoon school district.
The student, Josiah Lyons, who is alleged to have fired the shots on Sept. 20 has been charged with aggravated battery with a firearm. The suspect is a juvenile, but the JG-TC has opted at this time to use his name, as his identity has been widely disseminated and already made public.