The coach told a local news outlet that he doesn't "know if 'hero' is the right word but the universe works in mysterious ways and I was meant to be in that classroom."

By Maressa Brown
October 21, 2019
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Note that the below includes intense, potentially triggering content.

On May 17, a student named Angel Granados-Diaz brought a shotgun to Parkrose High School in Portland, Oregon. It was hidden in a garment bag and authorities later learned that Granados-Diaz intended to use it to take his own life. But in a series of dramatic events, a high school football coach named Keanon Lowe was able to disarm the 18-year-old. Intense footage of the moment was captured by school surveillance cameras—and aired on local news station KOIN6 on Friday after it was obtained from prosecutors through a public records request.

Granados-Diaz had previously made suicidal statements to another person, according to a news release from the Portland district attorney's office. The student had told the school administration, and Lowe was sent to Granados-Diaz's classroom to bring him into the office.

At that very moment, Granados-Diaz was in a nearby bathroom with the firearm. Lowe entered the classroom as Granados-Diaz exited the bathroom, upset and holding the gun. The release noted that he turned it on himself and tried unsuccessfully to discharge it, which is when Lowe was able to take it from him. His next move: hugging Granados-Diaz and reassuring him that he was there for him.

"In a fraction of a second, I analyzed everything really fast. I saw the look in his face, the look in his eyes," the former football player for the University of Oregon and former analyst for the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers, said in a news conference in May, according to KOIN. "My instincts just took over. I lunged for the gun."

He said he grabbed the firearm, and as students fled the school, he made sure it wasn't aimed at anyone.

"I think the universe works in amazing ways," Lowe noted. "I think I’ve gone through stuff in my life that prepared me for that moment and I’m lucky and I’m happy that I was in that classroom for those kids and I was able to prevent that tragedy. I don’t know if ‘hero’ is the right word but the universe works in mysterious ways and I was meant to be in that classroom and I was meant to stop a tragedy."

He elaborated on what he said to Granados-Diaz and felt in that dramatic moment: "I felt compassion for the kid, to be honest. I had a real-life conversation. Obviously, he broke down and I just wanted to let him know that I was there for him. I told him I was there to save him—I was there for a reason and that this is a life worth living."

The footage of the incident was tweeted by KOIN6 last week.

Since the incident, Lowe's swift, empathetic reaction has garnered a ton of praise. Bruce Alexander, who has worked in law enforcement, government counterterrorism and private security for 30 years, told the New York Times that every second is critical in the type of threat that Lowe defused. "In these kinds of tactical situations, the longer there is a delay in the reaction, the higher the probability exists of a larger casualty situation,” Alexander noted. "It’s the typical freeze-or-flight kind of syndrome."

He also said that Lowe's reaction "says a lot about his character. It’s a remarkable feat."

The district attorney's release noted that during the investigation, law enforcement learned Mr. Granados-Diaz legally purchased the shotgun and that he had been suicidal for several months. He was sentenced this month to 36 months of probation and to complete 64 hours of community service within one year, among other conditions.

Parakram Singh, the deputy district attorney, said, "This sentence is appropriate as it affords ongoing supervision and safeguards and simultaneously affords Mr. Granados-Diaz with an opportunity to move past this incident, so that he can continue to heal."

In the meantime, fellow educators will no doubt look to Lowe's brave, calm, compassionate, life-saving actions as a prime example of how to react in a similar situation should it occur.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Crisis Text Line provides free, 24-hour support. For help, text HOME to 741-741 for free.