CINCINNATI, Ohio (FOX19) - Whitney Austin, the woman who survived 12 gunshots during September’s mass shooting at the Fifth Third Center on Fountain Square, says she’s found a new purpose outside of the corporate world.
Austin is the Vice President and Senior Product Development Manager for digital lending at Fifth Third, but Friday she announced she would step away from that job to pursue something close to her heart: fighting gun violence.
Gunman Omar Enrique Santa Perez, 29, opened fire in the lobby of the bank’s headquarters Sept. 6. He managed to fire 35 rounds within just a few minutes before Cincinnati police fatally shot him.
Perez killed two contractors and a bank employee, Pruthvi Raj Kandepi, 25, Richard Newcomer, 64, and Luis Felipe Calderón, 48.
Fellow bank employee Brian Sarver was also wounded in the attack.
Austin, 37, lives in Louisville and had driven to Cincinnati that Thursday for a meeting.
She was on a conference call as she walked into the Fifth Third Center lobby revolving doors, directly into the shooting, said Fifth Third Bank Senior Public Relations Manager Laura Trujillo.
Her arm and shoulder were broken but no major organs were injured. She endured seven hours of surgery following the shooting to repair her right arm that suffered multiple gunshot wounds, her family says.
She was released from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center Sept. 10.
Following the shooting, Austin began a non-profit organization called Whitney/Strong which is dedicated to reducing gun violence by promoting, advocating and supporting responsible gun ownership, according to its Twitter account.
In May, Austin went to Knob Creek Gun Range in West Point to learn about gun safety from firearms instructor Cole Daunhauer.
Austin said she’s been around guns for the past 13 years. She has guns in her home, and says she was indifferent to them until she was a victim.
She said she isn’t against gun ownership, but supports ways of curbing violence through what other states have adopted like the Red Flag law.
The Red Flag law allows police or family to petition a state court to order temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.
In Friday’s post on the Whitney/Strong Organization Facebook page, Austin said she was spurred to action by the statistics on gun violence.
“With approximately 100 gun deaths a day and another 300 injured, I cannot turn my back on this issue I’ve experienced so intimately,” she said.
Austin has served as the executive director of her foundation since it’s inception, she says.
She says her recovery process is still underway and her capabilities are still limited, but she wanted to publicly commit herself to the activism profession.
“My time with Fifth Third Bank has been filled with so many fond memories. I will cherish the people that put me, time and time again, into projects and roles that challenged me and developed me into the leader I am today. I am grateful for the support I have received and continue to receive from the Fifth Third community,” she said.