Brady Olson heard a gunshot, then saw students running.
Moments later, the North Thurston High School teacher encountered a 16-year-old student who was smoking a cigarette and carrying a .357 Magnum through the school.
The teen fired another shot in the commons area and Olson tackled him. The social studies teacher flicked the gun across the floor and held the student down.
The two had never met before that day. While laying on top of the student, Olson tried to assure him that he could get help.
“Instinct is kind of a funny thing to talk about,” Olson said at a press conference Tuesday. “My first thought was to get the gun away from him.”
Olson served three years with the U.S. Army and has experience handling firearms.
“I’ve seen that sort of thing before,” he said.
Although some North Thurston students were shaken by the incident, none were hurt. Olson is credited with saving the gunman’s life by disarming him before any possible use of force by law enforcement.
Olson has since been heralded as a hero. He has received emails from people across the United States, along with gifts of gratitude from students and parents.
“I did what I did, and I don’t think I’d hesitate to do it again,” Olson said, adding that he is no different from other teachers in protecting students and putting them first. “When it comes to kids, that’s how it works.”
At Tuesday’s press conference, Olson was joined by his wife, Shara, and children, Jake and Madelyn. Shara Olson, a fourth-grade teacher at Horizons Elementary in the North Thurston district, said she and her husband had talked before about how they would handle a school shooter.
“He has many times said, ‘It depends on the situation, but if I’m close, I’m going for it,’” she said, noting her reaction when learning what had happened. “He called me and said, ‘I’m OK and I tackled the guy.’ And I said a couple of words I won’t share here, and then I said, ‘Of course you did.’ And I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
North Thurston Principal Steve Rood said the school has received an outpouring of support from the community. Rood said he was proud of Olson, local law enforcement, and staff, who worked together to keep students safe.
“Brady is a tremendous teacher and mentor for our students,” Rood said, “but he’s even a better person.”