8-year-old girl, dad hid in cooler during Buffalo mass shooting

Published: May. 17, 2022 at 12:15 AM EDT
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - An 8-year-old girl is home with her family, happy to all be together. She was with her parents when a shooter opened fire at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store, killing 10 people.

Londin Thomas, 8, her mom and her dad went to Tops Friendly Market to gather supplies for a cookout and a birthday surprise Saturday.

“When we went to Tops, we were buying some cake mix for my mama. She did not know. She was at the meat section, so we could grill,” Londin said.

And then, as the family was separated, shots rang out.

“Once they never stopped, you just gotta think, ‘I know I’m not in this situation that I thought I’d ever be,’” said Londin’s dad, Lamont Thomas.

Londin and her dad rushed to the back of the store, hiding in a cooler with the father’s hand over his little girl’s mouth.

“We went to the back of the store where the milk is. The door was locked, and we could not get out until the manager opened the door. Then, we had to go out the back door. The cops led us out,” Londin said.

At that same moment, Londin’s mom, Julie Hartwell, was at the front of the store, trying to stay down. Gallons of milk were exploding around her as bullets flew. She says she could hear the suspect’s footsteps getting louder.

“My first instinct was dropping down to the floor on my chest, not really trying to put my head up, not really trying to look at anything, just focusing on trying to get somewhere safe. But at the same time, I’m worried about my daughter,” Hartwell said.

“I was scared for my mom. I did not know what happened to her because she was at the front and I was at the back. I didn’t know where she was. I thought she was gone,” Londin said.

Once safely outside, Londin and her dad ended up on one side of the building, whereas her mom ended up on the other side. Hartwell says those 20 minutes they were separated were some of the longest moments of her life.

“Twenty minutes later, they gave me my daughter. That was the most longest wait I’ve had in my life,” she said.

Throughout all of the chaos, Londin says she never felt scared because her dad was there.

“People say I’m a really brave girl,” she said.

For now, Londin is just happy to be back with her family, especially her mom.

“I love her a lot,” she said. “She’s the best mom I’ve ever seen in the whole entire world.”

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