Teacher who stopped student-shooter aims to be "positive role model"

ByChuck Goudie and Christine Tressel via WLS logo
Friday, September 22, 2017
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Police in downstate Mattoon credit teacher Angela McQueen with preventing numerous causalities during a school cafeteria shooting.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A downstate Illinois math teacher who disarmed a student-shooter in the school cafeteria has a personal ideology to be "a positive role model."

Angela McQueen became a teacher because she "wanted to make the world a better place" according to her profile at Mattoon High School. On Wednesday, near the beginning of the school lunch period, she got the chance to put her words in action.

Police say McQueen, 40, was directed by another student to a freshman boy who had his finger on the trigger of a semi-automatic pistol. She grabbed the boy's arm as he fired at a girl standing nearby-the bullet whizzing by that student and hitting another in the upper chest.

"When the first shot went off I thought it was just a loud balloon" said student Nathan Barrett who says he saw the whole thing. "I turned to look and I see Miss McQueen wrestling with a student and a gun. So my only reaction was to get the people sitting with me out of the building as fast as I could. So at first I ended up throwing my friend Julie under a table and when the gun shots continued I tried to push her out from under the table and get her out of the building."

The teenage gunman continued firing according to police, but with McQueen in control of his arm and keeping it pointed upward, those shots went into the ceiling and no one else was wounded.

She managed to hold the shooter until officers arrived and arrested him.

He is facing juvenile charges of aggravated battery with a firearm and has not been publicly named. A judge has now ordered the blonde, thin teenager to undergo mental evaluations. The boy's parents agreed to the evaluations. His next court hearing is scheduled for Oct 5. Some Mattoon students have said bullying was a factor in the freshman bringing a gun to school and opening fire.

"In these scenarios you just don't know what is going to happen until it happens" said Mattoon Police Chief Jeff Branson who credited the teacher's intervention with preventing the high school incident from being even more serious.

"Had the teacher not responded as quickly as she had I think the situation would have been a lot different," Branson said.

McQueen, a graduate of Eastern Illinois University, has worked at Mattoon High School about 180 miles south of Chicago for ten years. She teaches algebra and geometry.

The wounded boy is in stable condition and expected to recover.