On the same day as the tragic Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisc., another gunman entered a sporting goods store in Yuba City, Calif. on Sunday with unknown intentions. He proceeded to hold a female employee at gunpoint for nearly four hours, ABC News reports.
She says she will never be the same and that the ordeal has given her a new respect for life.
Police believe the standoff was the result of a botched robbery at the Big 5 Sporting Goods store. The suspect, identified as Juan Carlos Alvarez, 29, ultimately surrendered to authorities without incident, but everyone involved in the case knows it could have ended much, much worse.
The female hostage, Allyson Taylor, 18, was able to escape the horrifying incident unscathed due to what authorities say was quick thinking on her part. Officials say Taylor’s ability to reason with her captor and talk him down may have saved lives on that fateful Sunday.
“She knew when to push, she knew when to let him be. You can’t help but thank her enough and be in awe of that young girl,” said Shawna Pavey, operations support manager for the Yuba City Police Department.
Taylor recounted her terrifying ordeal.
“He didn’t want to die that day,” she told ABC News, talking about her captor. “He wanted to be able to see his daughter again and so I knew that… as long as, ‘You don’t hurt me you can see your daughter again.’”
It all began at around 11 a.m. on Sunday as Taylor was busy greeting incoming customers at the store’s entrance. She was the first person to interact with the gunman.
“He lifted up his shirt, pulled the gun out and immediately pointed it at me,” Taylor explained. “He raised the gun and let off a shot towards the ceiling.”
Meanwhile, the store’s manager quickly dialed 911, begging for police assistance as she hid in her office.
“I have a gunshot in the store. I need an officer here now,” the manager told a 911 operator.
“At the Big 5?” the operator asked.
“Yes, I’m hiding under the desk in the office.”
Another employee, Matthew Rasul, 23, was returning from his break when he saw the incident play out from across the store.
“I was just in the dark, there is nothing worse than not knowing because I always assumed the worst was going on, and that is the scariest thing,” Rasul told ABC News.
He too dialed 911 immediately.
“I see my manager and one of our part-time workers with their hands up. I’m not going to go let myself be seen,” Rasul told a 911 operator.
“Oh no, no, no, I’m not telling you to go out there. What is it that he said?” asked the operator.
“Nothing he said ‘Come over here’ and then he has one of our part-time workers,” Rasul answered.
As the staff members were trying desperately to alert the authorities, Alvarez was reportedly seen dragging Taylor by the neck into the store office where the safe was kept. She explained to the gunman that she didn’t know the combination to the safe, however, Alvarez just replied he didn’t want money.
Over the next several hours, Alvarez never told Taylor exactly what it was he wanted or why he was holding her hostage.
“I knew in my mind that it would be easier for him to shoot me if I didn’t look him in the eye or if I didn’t talk to him, make a connection with him,” Taylor told ABC News.
ABC News reports she spoke to the armed assailant in a “soothing tone” and tried to remind him that if he didn’t hurt anyone he would be able to see his daughter again. At the same time, multiple calls from hostage negotiators were coming in, trying to convince the suspect to end the standoff.
Finally, at around 3 p.m., four hours after the standoff began, Alvarez agreed to turn himself over to police. It must have felt like an eternity for the 18-year-old hostage.
“I just started shaking, I could barely walk out of the store,” Taylor added. “But once I was in the hands of the police officers, I knew at that point I was fine and OK.”
Alvarez faces multiple charges including robbery, kidnapping and false imprisonment. Additional charges may be filed after the District Attorney reviews the case.
In the aftermath, Taylor is reluctant to take credit for averting a tragedy, KTXL reports.
Sometimes, it is just as important for the stories with happy endings to make the headlines.
Watch the full ABC News report here.
This story has been updated.