First responders recall response to Collierville mass shooting after year to reflect

Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 7:56 AM CDT
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COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) - Standing strong together. The Collierville community is reflecting on the horror that unfolded at that Kroger on New Byhalia Road exactly one year ago.

The gunman, Uk Thang, killed one person and injured 14 others.

As the community remembers the victims of the shooting, Action News 5 is also hearing from multiple agencies who helped calm the chaos. Among them were the Collierville Fire and Police Departments.

They tell us it was an all-hands-on-deck situation with help coming from different angles to assess the situation.

”They brought in special people that are trained in that type of thing to talk with us and go over what happened that day, majority of the people that responded surrounding departments were there for it,” said Skylar Hunt with MFD. “We were all there but in different parts of the storage. We kind of got better listening to everyone’s story about what everyone did where everyone was and what happened.”

And they’re offering their thanks to outside departments from neighboring towns who made it a mission to help in any way they could.

Less than one minute. That’s how quickly Collierville police officers were able to get to the scene of the shooting inside Kroger.

“We all hope that it doesn’t happen. But hope is never a plan,” said Collierville Police Chief Dale Lane.

Lane said Sept. 23, 2021, started out like any other day until 1:30 on that Thursday afternoon when the police radio echoed through the police station.

“The first thing we heard was 18 shots in the deli area come out from the dispatch,” said Lane.

According to the official investigation report, two police officers arrived on the scene at Kroger 52 seconds after the first report of gunshots remarkably fast in an active shooter situation.

“Your plan is that you will respond the way you’re trained,” said Lane.

Turned out officers were in the area and responded immediately ready for the situation. Just three months prior Collierville’s police and fire departments had active shooter training together working through scenarios just like the Kroger mass shooting.

“And I have to say that you know you’re going there’s 100 things that can go through your mind, but everybody knew what the main focus was when that call went out,” said Lane.

Some of the numbers from that day: 47 shell casings were recovered inside the Kroger, 14 people were shot, 1 of them died and the shooter -- who worked as the sushi chef inside that store -- took his own life.

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“There’s been no evidence that anybody cooperated with him or helping plan or any of that guy just think it was one of those,” said Lane. “You know, it appears to be that day kind of decision.”

For days, Lane says he replayed the shooting and the events over and over in his head. Days later, words of encouragement came from little 11-year-old, Connor Underwood, who delivered a handwritten note to the chief with a very specific message.

“‘I’m your prayer partner, I was praying for you.’ And he wrote me that I mean, this the sweetest letter,” said Lane. “Let me know that. You know that God was with me and he knew that it was scary. And but here’s the Bible verse, you need to read this: Joshua 1:9, be strong and courageous. No matter your trials is just basically saying like, God will be with you no matter what. And like, you don’t have to worry. He’ll help you.”

Underwood, like so many others in Collierville, felt the need to respond with a special message of hope, encouragement and strength during a difficult time.

“It’s just really cool to see that I still talk to him and like that he actually cares about it,” said Underwood. “And it was just a note that I wrote and it just kind of passed on. And it was really cool to see that he still has out there.”

“I’m just thankful that our team did what they were trained to do,” said Lane. “We had a community that wrapped their arms around us.”

The Collierville community -- thankful for the police and fire departments’ quick action and grateful for their training to handle that scene effectively.

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