On Wednesday, the San Bernardino shooting seized the attention of the entire nation. A staggering 14 people were fatally shot, and 21 more were wounded in the attack, which the FBI is currently investigating as an act of terrorism, identifying a husband and wife duo named Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik as the perpetrators (both of them were later slain in a police shootout). Now, one of the survivors of the attack is speaking out about the harrowing experience: San Bernardino survivor Denise Peraza has described how her co-worker, 45-year-old Shannon Johnson, sacrificed his life in order to protect her.
According to ABC 7 News, Peraza's husband provided them with a statement from her — she was wounded in the attack, but was reportedly released from the hospital on Friday — which recalled how she and Johnson, a health inspector for San Bernardino county, were joking with one another just moments before the shooting started.
Wednesday morning at 10:55 a.m., we were seated next to each other at a table, joking... would have never guessed that only five minutes later, we would be huddled next to each other under that same table, using a fallen chair as a shield from over 60 rounds of bullets being fired across the room.
According to Peraza's account, when the two shooters entered the Inland Regional Center conference room that she and Johnson were seated in, they took cover underneath a table, and Johnson used his own body to shield her from the gunfire.
I will always remember his left arm wrapped around me, holding me as close as possible next to him behind that chair. ... And amidst all the chaos, I'll always remember him saying these three words, 'I got you.'
Peraza left no doubt that she believes she owes her life to Johnson, saying "I believe I am still here today because of this amazing man." It's no surprise that he's been hailed as a hero for his sacrifice. — Peraza's sister praised his courage and compassion in a Facebook post, calling him an "angel of a man."
This angel of a man was sitting next to my sister when the shooting happened. He helped protect her from the bullets and we are so grateful for his heroic love, that most likely saved her life. She said he was a very sweet man and she spoke with him often at work. Our heart breaks hearing of his passing, and it bursts knowing of his love for my sister.
According to ABC News, Johnson's family released a statement on Friday remembering his life, describing him as "a generous, fun-loving soul," and a "protector to all of those he loved."
Shannon was a generous, fun-loving soul, who very much loved his family and friends. Shannon was a protector to all of those he loved. Shannon was friendly and easy to know, making friends everywhere he traveled. He loved his job as a Health Inspector. He also loved his community and his fellow co-workers. Shannon lived a quiet and private life in his home in Los Angeles. He loved taking long walks throughout the city, going to concerts, and hanging out at his favorite tattoo parlor. He truly enjoyed laughter, conversation, music, and his pets. Shannon believed in the greatness of love, equality and kindness and treated others accordingly. All who knew him will miss him more than we can ever say, and our thoughts and prayers are with the other families who are grieving the loss of their loved ones.
You can find a GoFundMe page to help cover Johnson's funeral costs here. As of now, however, it's already exceeded its goal of $35,000.