MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When you see him with his baby daughter, or helping his wife set the dinner table, you can only imagine the contrast Officer Pete Stanton sees in his daily life. He’s a father, husband, part-time SWAT member and Minneapolis Police officer.
And when a just-fired employee killed five people before shooting himself in a Minneapolis office last week, Stanton was there just minutes after the first shots were fired. He described the scene as “one of the worst things” police officers have to see.
But amidst the chaos at Accent Signage Systems last Thursday, Stanton heard something.
“In the area I was starting to clear, I could hear whispering,” he said. “And I had to stop myself and stop other people…I could hear ‘help, help.’”
He started searching under the desks and found a witness named Sheryl curled up, hiding.
“I said, ‘Are you injured?’ and she said, ‘No,’” Stanton recalled. “She was shaking, white as a ghost.”
Stanton escorted Sheryl outside and put her, and another witness, in a squad car.
“At that point, we had heard that the suspect possibly had gotten out,” Stanton said.
Looking for safety, Stanton drove the two witnesses a couple blocks away. He told himself he wasn’t leaving them until authorities knew what was going on. He stayed with Sheryl until 9:30 p.m., when he gave her a ride home.
“The shooter had killed one of my co-workers right on the other side of the wall,” Sheryl said earlier in an interview with WCCO-TV.
She added: “I am so grateful to [Stanton], and I pray for him to stay safe on the job, and that he returns home each and every night to his family.”
When Stanton heard the interview, he said: “That’s really neat to hear.”
With more than a decade on the police force, Stanton said the Accent Signage shooting is unlike any he’s ever experienced. He says he’s especially proud of the first three officers who responded.
“They went deep into the building without knowing half the information that a lot of us knew going in. I thought that was very brave of them; they are heroes,” he said. “They are my heroes.”
And although he’s reluctant to say his deeds were heroic, Stanton says it’s Sheryl’s gratitude that makes the sacrifice worthwhile.
“I’m glad I could be there for her…even just that little bit,” he said.
The gunman, Andrew Engeldinger, killed four people in Accent Signage. One of the injured died later at the Hennepin County Medical Center. One of those killed was the founder of Accent Signage, Reuven Rahamim.