T.I. and Killer Mike step up to provide support for El Paso hero

Soon after an Army soldier and former Georgia resident saved several children during a mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart, two well-known Atlanta rappers and activists stepped up to help him.

Mike Render, also known as Killer Mike, and his longtime friend and business partner, Clifford Harris Jr., known professionally as Tip or T.I., flew Glendon Oakley Jr.’s sister, father and a Texas minister to be by his side after the Texas shooting, in which 22 people were killed.

They did so to provide support for Oakley, who recently returned from a deployment in Kuwait, and was besieged by attention after the massacre.

Oakley, a 22-year-old private first class stationed at Fort Bliss, lived for a time in Macon, where his mother still resides, according to a sister, Glenda Oakley Cook of San Antonio.

“I’m very proud of him,” said Cook, a military veteran and Realtor who talks to her younger brother on a daily basis. “He said he did what he was trained to do. Hero is the title that was given to him. He was thrust into the spotlight and he didn’t expect that. He doesn’t consider himself a hero. He said he just did what he would want someone to do for him or his kid in this situation.”

She said her brother has been keeping a low profile and is not giving additional media interviews, preferring to keep the attention on the victims of the massacre and their families.

“Hero is a big title to bear on your shoulders,” she said. “In a quick time frame, he was all over the national and international news.” She didn’t know her brother was at the scene until she got a call from their father. She was shocked, though not surprised he took action.

Killer Mike, though, lauded Oakley’s bravery.

“Oftentimes, those faces of people seen as heroes don’t look like us,” said Killer Mike. “There are not enough brown and black faces. This is the truest essence of what I know to be the black men in my life — quietly in the shadows. He’s a noble young man who has credited joining the military with helping change his life. I could tell he had a strong family foundation.”

Killer Mike said, so far, he has only talked to Oakley on the telephone, but plans to “absolutely” meet him in person.

Harris could not be reached for comment.

Oakley said in an interview with CBS affiliate WMAZ -TV that he was shopping at a nearby mall when a child ran up and said there was an active shooter at Walmart.

At first, Oakley said he and others didn’t believe him.

Then Oakley, who is licensed to carry a gun, heard two gunshots. People started running.

Oakley said he was the only one with a gun, so he went with them to provide cover. He headed toward Dillard’s, which he described as being like a playpen with a number of panicked children there without their parents. That Dillard’s location is across a parking lot from the Walmart that was under attack.

He tried to grab as many kids as possible to get them out of harm’s way. His military training kicked in. His heart was beating fast, but “I was worried about the kids more than myself.”

The Rev. Brianna K. Parker of Dallas, who runs the faith-based Black Millennial Cafe, a research, polling and consulting firm, ministered to Oakley.

“It was very clear that if my child needed someone or if my child had been a hero in a situation that caused trauma, I would want someone in the faith community to care enough about my child to go,” she said. “It was important for me to know he was going to get holistic care.”

Cook described her brother as a “humble kid and fun, just like a normal 22-year-old” with a smile that can light up a room.

He’s been in the military for about a year and a half.

She said she was surprised to hear that Killer Mike and T.I. wanted to help.

“They just wanted to lend their support and they talked about how proud they are,” she said. “We were just humbled by that offer. They didn’t have to do it at all. They wanted to make sure we had holistic support.

“This is just bigger than us,” she said. “I do believe everything happens for a reason and we don’t always know what that reason is. I don’t think he intended to go shopping that day. I’m just glad he was protected.”