The shirt off her back, and their lives

Wendi Winters fought back.

Janel Cooley, a survivor of the shooting that killed Winters and four others, spoke about her experience for the first time in an interview with The Capital. She said she watched from under her desk as the 20-year newspaper veteran rose to meet her attacker.

Winters charged forward holding a trash can and recycling bin, said Cooley, a sales consultant. Winters shouted something like, “No! You stop that!” or “You get out of here!” like she was warding off an unwanted dog.

“She may have distracted him enough that he forgot about me because I definitely stood up and was looking at the door,” Cooley said. “I’m sure he wasn’t expecting … anyone to charge him.”

Winters’ colleagues agree she saved their lives. Of the 11 employees in the office during the attack, six survived.

Winters once gave fellow reporter Rachael Pacella the shirt off her back when Pacella spilled gasoline on her clothes before an important interview. She checked in on photojournalist Paul W. Gillespie incessantly after his brother died. Intern Anthony Messenger, who started at The Capital weeks before the attack, said Winters always tried to make him feel comfortable.

The survivors say her charge gave them time to hide or get out.

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