Wright-Patt shooter witness: ‘It’s a miracle no one was injured’

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

WPAFB Witness: Hannah Wegner

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A woman who witnessed gunfire at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in August said it’s a “miracle” that she and four other people made it out of the hospital uninjured.

Hannah Wegner, a civilian employee who did not typically work in the hospital, hid in an office room at Wright-Patterson Medical Center when bullets sprayed through a wall.

A “poorly planned and executed” base exercise at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base led to an utterly chaotic response for a false active shooter incident on Aug. 2 — resulting in a military service member discharging multiple rounds of ammunition from an assault rifle.

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Wright-Patt active shooter response | What happened?

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» QUICK READ: 5 key facts we learned from Wright-Patt active shooter report

A report about the false active shooter incident on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base detailed how an uncoordinated response from law enforcement could have resulted in “serious injury and property damage.” The incident terrified staff and civilians in a hospital filled with “fog and friction.”

Wegner was on base to volunteer for a mass casualty exercise in the hospital. 
"I was sitting in an examination room, and the announcement came on, saying real-world active shooter," she said. "At first, I thought someone must've misspoke because there was an exercise happening. I didn't quite know what was going on. When it continued, it became pretty clear that it was not part of the exercise. It was actually something happening."

A nurse guided Wegner into her office. A total of five people in that room barricaded the door, turned the lights off and laid on the floor. The room remained quiet, until the group heard commotion outside of the door.

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Wright-Patt False Active Shooter Press Conference

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» UNMATCHED COVERAGE: Wright-Patt active shooter report shows response could have led to ‘serious injury’

Then, bullets pierced through the wall on the right side of the room, sending chunks of dry wall flying through the dark office. Wegner heard a barrage of bullets: “Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. It was pretty apparent what they were. We all thought it was the shooter.”

She laid in the back of the room, staying as quiet as possible so the shooter wouldn’t hear her.

“I had no idea what was happening,” she said. “That’s when it really became a real-world thing for me.”

The inside of the office where Wegner was located.
The inside of the office where Wegner was located.

Outside of the room, an unruly scene was unfolding as law enforcement and Air Force Security Forces Squadron members responded to what they thought was an active shooter situation.

During the response, a Security Forces member fired rounds from an M4 through the window of a locked door, according to the report. Wegner said officials indicated that that member who discharged shots was attempting to breach the entryway door to the Red Clinic. The bullets came through the office, where she and others were hiding.

» STICKING WITH THE STORY: 7 things to remember about Wright-Patterson active situation 

An investigation found that the use of an M4 weapon to breach a locked door was inappropriate. Military personnel must follow weapons safety training at all times, especially during high pressure situations, the report found.

Col. Thomas Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, said the base is already revising its protocols to work more cohesively with outside law enforcement. The incident unveiled “a gap” in how the base communicates with outside law enforcement and the media.

“The incident itself was painful to go through and the report was painful as well,” Sherman said during a news conference.

Wegner is relieved details about the incident have been released. She’s appreciated Sherman’s response to the incident, which she described as “genuine.” For her, that day wasn’t a false alarm.

“There were three people on the right side of the room. It was a miracle that day that no one was injured,” she said. “A miracle. There’s no other way to say it.”