Smile Direct Club warehouse manager's actions saved lives after gunman opened fire

Manager stood his ground against gunman
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Posted at 9:34 AM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 19:17:03-04

ANTIOCH, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Gunshots sent people running for cover one month ago at the Smile Direct Club warehouse in Antioch. The active shooter was killed, but not before injuring three employees. It could have been much worse, if not for the actions of one man, who police now say acted heroically.

This is the story of Thomas Abbott, who stood his ground and fought back. It's the first time hearing from one of the shooting victims from inside the warehouse.

Abbott was there and confronted the shooter. The story he tells, confirmed by police, is chilling. He likely saved dozens of lives.

Emergency calls reported an active shooter at the Smile Direct warehouse in Antioch the morning of August 3.

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"He pulled the gun out and put the clip in... oh my God," said Abbott.

It was chaos as people ran for their lives. Abbott, a warehouse manager, did not.

"I could have ran and hidden, but I had two guys that was down and 30 or 40 people in a room that did not know what was going on."

Here is what Abbott knew: That morning during shift change, an employee -- Antonio King -- walked in and started confronting people.

"He says, 'you got a problem with me?' I said, 'no big guy I don't have a problem with you.' Then he yelled out, 'this is the day baby... this is the day.' And I said, 'big guy... what's going on. Let's just talk about it,'" said Abbott.

He said King pulled a gun and fired a shot, missing him.

King then went after other employees, who ran for the front entrance to escape.

Abbott followed.

"He went outside and he was trying to come back in."

By that time, the warehouse's two security guards inside began exchanging gunshots with King, and both guards were shot.

"I'm like, 'oh my God... they're both down. Both down.'"

Metro Nashville police said three employees were shot Tuesday morning at a Smile Direct Club warehouse in Antioch. The suspected gunman was shot and killed by police.

Abbott realized he couldn't allow King back into the building with more than three dozen employees still inside, so he turned to one of the security guards.

"I said, 'give me your gun. Give me your gun.' He gave me the gun and an extra clip," said Abbott. "And I took a couple shots at him to let him know there is somebody in here manning the gun."

King returned fire, and a bullet fragment ricocheted -- hitting Abbott in the chest, knocking him to the floor.

"Once I got hit and went down, I felt like, 'okay is this it Lord? Is this how I'm going to go?' And, then something popped into my head and I jumped back up."

Abbott again grabbed the gun and kept King from re-entering.

You can see the full interview with Thomas Abbott tonight on NewsChannel 5 at 6 p.m.

By that time, Metro police arrived, confronting King outside the warehouse, where he was then shot and killed.

"My heart does go out to the family of the young man."

Abbott's just glad no one else died.

Metro police say there's little doubt his actions saved lives.

"I just hope if my wife or daughters are in that situation that somebody would do the same," said Abbott. "I just want to make sure everybody goes home safe."

Abbott was treated for a minor gunshot wound to the chest and was released from the hospital the day of the incident.

The two security guards survived. No one else was injured.

The TBI investigation into the incident and the resulting officer-involved shooting remains open at this time.