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Two Teachers Hailed As Heroes In Louisiana Shooting

A screenshot of a fundraising page for teachers Jena Meaux and Ali Martin, who are being hailed as heroes for their actions in Thursday's theater attack.
A screenshot of a fundraising page for teachers Jena Meaux and Ali Martin, who are being hailed as heroes for their actions in Thursday's theater attack.

The actions of two teachers who were in a Louisiana movie theater when a gunman opened fire Thursday night are being praised, as officials say the women's bravery and quick thinking saved the lives of unsuspecting patrons.

Two people were killed in the attack in Lafayette, La.; nine more were injured. After being cornered by police, the gunman, identified as John Russel Houser, 59, reportedly killed himself.

Teachers Jena Meaux and Ali Martin survived the attack, but both reportedly suffered gunshot wounds. Gov. Bobby Jindal says one of the women leaped in front of the other in an effort to protect her — and that the second woman then activated a fire alarm in the theater.

"The sound of that alarm caused an evacuation of the rest of the movie theater," The Times-Picayune reports, citing a witness who was at another movie showing in the theater.

"Who knows how many lives were saved?" Jindal asked.

Jindal described what happened:

"One teacher literally jumping over her friend, potentially saving her life. Second teacher felt like that bullet would have hit her in the head if her friend hadn't jumped on her. The second teacher was shot anyway, in the leg — had the presence of mind to pull that fire alarm."

In addition to the rapid police response, officials say 12 ambulances were on the scene within 6 minutes.

Meaux and Martin reportedly work in Iberia Parish. Two teachers associations have set up a fundraising page to help pay their medical costs. As of Friday morning, the campaign had attracted more than $8,000 in donations. The organizer calls the educators "two amazing, strong, beautiful women who risked their lives to save others."

One of the teachers was treated at the hospital and released Thursday night; officials haven't said which one of the women remains in the hospital.

The gunman reportedly fired more than a dozen shots in the theater. As Eyder wrote for the Two-Way this morning:

"Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said that John Russel Houser was from Alabama, had moved around quite a bit, but had been living in Lafayette since early July. At the time of the shooting, Houser was living in a local motel. Craft said Houser was at a showing of the comedy Trainwreck, when he stood up and unloaded at least 13 rounds into the audience, killing 21-year-old Mayci Breaux and 33-year-old Jillian Johnson."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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