In the moments before she was shot dead in the Capital Gazette newsroom on June 28, veteran reporter Wendi Winters stood up from her desk and “charged” at the rampaging gunman, brandishing a trash can and a recycling bin.
Janel Cooley, a sales consultant at the paper, watched from under her desk as Winters, a 65-year-old mother of four, risked her life to protect her colleagues.
Winters “shouted something like, ‘No! You stop that!’ or ‘You get out of here!’ like she was warding off an unwanted dog,” Cooley recalled in an interview with the Capital Gazette.
The six people in the newsroom who survived the shooting that day said Winters, who’d recently taken an active shooter training class at her church, saved their lives.
“I think that Wendi doing what she did served as enough of a distraction that maybe he didn’t see us,” reporter Rachael Pacella told the Gazette, referring to suspected shooter Jarrod Ramos. “I absolutely think that Wendi Winters saved my life.”
Winters, who was one of five people killed in the shooting, has been remembered as a “prolific and dependable writer,” a devoted mom, and a selfless colleague who once literally gave the shirt off her back to a fellow reporter who’d accidentally spilled something on herself.
Joshua McKerrow, a Gazette photojournalist who was not in the newsroom when the shooting occurred, marveled at Winters’ courage in an interview with The New Yorker.
“She’s a mother of four, in her 60s, and she charged him,” McKerrow said.
At her memorial service on Saturday, Winters’ son Phoenix Geimer called his mother ― a faithful blood donor who’d personally donated 11 gallons of blood between 1999 and 2018 ― an “American hero.”
“In an act of extraordinary courage, she gave her heart, and she gave her last breath, and she gave her final eight pints of blood to the defense of the free press and in defense of her family at the Capital,” Geimer said, reported The Washington Post. “She died fighting for what she believed in. My mom is an American hero, and we all have so much to live up to.”