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'People say I'm a very brave girl:' 8-year-old girl hid in cooler during Buffalo mass shooting

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Posted at 6:07 PM, May 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-14 19:42:56-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — 8-year-old Londin Thomas, her mom, and her dad went to the Tops on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo Saturday to gather supplies for a cookout and a birthday surprise.

"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.

As Londin was with her dad looking at cake mixes, and her mom was grabbing food for dinner, shots rang out.

"They never stopped. You just gotta think, I know I'm not in this situation that I thought I'd never be," Lamont Thomas, Londin's father, said.

Londin and Lamont rushed to the back of the store to hide in a cooler. Lamont's hand covered Londin's mouth.

"People say I'm a very brave girl," Londin said.

"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. We had the cops lead us out," Londin said.

At that same moment, gallons of milk were exploding around Londin's mom Julie Harwell as bullets ripped through the store. Harwell said she could hear the suspect's footsteps getting louder.

"My first instinct was dropping down to the floor and crawling on my chest. Not really trying to put my head up, not really trying to look at anything. I was just trying to get somewhere safe. But at the same time, I'm worried about my daughter," Harwell said.

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

Lamont and Londin ended up on the Landon Street side of Tops, whereas Harwell ended up on Riley Street on the other side of the building. Harwell said those 20 minutes they were separated were some of the longest moments of her life.

"20 minutes later they gave me my daughter. That was the most longest wait I've had in my life," Harwell said.

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

"Do you think your dad will always protect you?" 7 News Reporter Olivia Proia asked.

"Yes," Londin replied.

"So you felt safe just because your dad was there?" 7 News Reporter Olivia Proia asked.

"Yes. My dad," Londin replied.

Now, Londin's happy to be back with her family, especially her mom.

"I love her a lot," Londin said, "She's the best mom I've ever seen in the whole entire world."