PORTLAND- Keanon Lowe’s recount of how he disarmed a student who police said carried a shotgun into a classroom, prohibiting a tragic shooting at Parkrose High School, is bone chilling.
Lowe entered the classroom in the Fine Arts building on Friday 20 seconds before the door re-opened and Lowe was face-to-face with an armed high school senior. The former Oregon Ducks wide receiver was faced with a life or death decision.
It’s the third school gun incident this month in the United States. In all three instances, the shooter was tackled; one of the tacklers lived and two died for their efforts.
Did Lowe ever think to run?
“Never,” he said.
“In a fraction of a second, I analyzed everything really fast, saw the look in his face, looked at his eyes, looked at the gun, I realized it was a real gun and then my instincts just took over,” Lowe said.
“I lunged for the gun, put two hands on the gun, and he had his two hands on the gun. The students were running out of the classroom and screaming. I was just making sure the barrel of the gun isn’t pointed towards them or towards me. I was able to wrestle it away.”
Right place. Right time. But to truly understand how the 27-year-old head football coach came to be just three feet from the barrel of a shotgun, you have to go back… The story didn’t start when Lowe, who is also a school security guard, was called to that classroom to take a student back to the office with him, a task he does 30-40 times a day.
The right life experiences and a myriad of decisions led him to be incredibly brave and decisive in a terrifying moment.
“His contributions could not be documented merely by statistics despite looming as one of Oregon’s top three receivers through the first six games.”
Lowe became an assistant on former Oregon coach Chip Kelly’s NFL staffs at Philadelphia and then San Francisco. Lowe's passion to work with kids urged him to leave the NFL. He felt like he had a solid foundation to use the knowledge that he had to take on a bigger role.
The goal was to find his voice as a head coach, help mold the next generation and give them someone to count on.
When he took over the Parkrose football program one year ago, he joined Aaron Fentress and me on The Bridge on NBC Sports Northwest. Call it foreshadowing, call it what you want, but he took the job “to make a difference in the community.”
He’s done just that. Who knows how many lives he saved and impacted on that Friday in Portland. Life prepared Lowe for that moment.
“In that situation, a lot of us would freeze up, or kinda back out and not know what to do,” Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said of Lowe after giving him tickets to Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. “For him to take that type of stand, and to go and tackle the kid and protect all those people and himself, that’s a real hero move. That’s a big move. That’s big time of him.”
The story doesn’t end after Lowe wrestled and disarmed 19-year-old Angel Granados Diaz . The students rushed out of the classroom, it was just Lowe and Diaz and the emotions that took over. The two had a conversation.
In that moment when anger could have taken over, Lowe chose compassion.
“He broke down and I just wanted to let him know that I was there for him,” Lowe said. “I told him I was there to save him. I was there for a reason and that this is a life worth living."
It could be argued that Lowe found his voice.
Police arrived, apprehended the student and took him into custody. Diaz made his first court appearance Monday, where he pleaded not guilty to charges of reckless endangerment, possession of a firearm, and carrying a firearm into a public building.
During Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, the Trail Blazers honored Lowe’s heroics. 20,000 fans stood in pride of their hometown hero, while he stood with his hand over his heart. Call it fate or call it destiny, but know that Lowe’s actions derived from a life full of preparation and integrity.