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Hero leads blind coworker from Navy Yard shooting
A now-iconic image emerged from the Washington Navy Yard shooting Monday: A civilian helping a blind colleague exit the building to safety.
As bullets flew, Omar Grant took his unidentified co-worker's arm and led him out of the building. A photo capturing the moment was posted by Yahoo! News reporter Chris Moody on Twitter.
"As soon as we got outside the cafeteria doors into the hallway, we saw people panicked, running for the exits,'' Grant told TODAY's Carson Daly in an Orange Room phone interview Tuesday. "They were shouting. I couldnt make out exactly what they were shouting, but I knew it was something serious. I told my colleague there that we were going to get out of the building, and I was going to help him because normally hes got somebody with him there, and this morning he was all by himself."
Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old civilian contractor, is suspected of killing 12 people before he was shot dead by police.
Grant described the scene as civilians and military first heard the gunfire.
"I heard the first two shots while I was in the atrium near the cafeteria where I saw my blind colleague also,'' Grant said. "After we heard the first two shots, we were wondering where the noise came from because sound echoes and travels there in an atrium area. You go up from the first floor of the building all the way up to the fifth floor. I proceeded to take his arm and led him into the cafeteria, and people started wondering as they also heard gunshots.
"We heard three more shots while we were inside the cafeteria and then we saw the alarms go off to evacuate the building."
U.S. Navy Commander Tim Jirus was warned about the danger by a stranger.
He came up behind us and was talking to me, basically saying, Hey, theres a shooter in your building, Jirus told TODAY. Then I heard two more shots, one of them hit him, he went down in front of me, and then I took off from there.
Alexis had been working as a civilian contractor for a division of Hewlett-Packard that was performing an upgrade on the equipment used on the Navy/Marine Corps intranet, Hewlett-Packard confirmed to NBC News on Monday. He previously had served in the Navy Reserve, and investigators said that he may have recently lost his job with Hewlett-Packard.
In 2004, Alexis was arrested for allegedly shooting at a vehicle in a "black-out fueled by anger,'' according to court records. His father told police that Alexis had "anger management problems" and was stressed from being "an active participant in rescue attempts of September 11th, 2001,'' according to the arrest report.