Officers who killed gunman in Cincinnati hailed as heroes

FILE - In this Sept. 6, 2018 file photo, police investigate outside Fifth Third Bank building on Fountain Square after a shooting with multiple fatalities in downtown Cincinnati. The two shooting victims who survived the gunman’s attack are both back home. Whitney Austin was discharged from UC Medical Center on Tuesday, Sept. 11. Brian Sarver was released Monday. (Albert Cesare/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP, File)

CINCINNATI (AP) — A prosecutor on Friday praised the Cincinnati police officers who killed a gunman at a downtown office building as heroes, saying they probably saved countless lives.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters cleared the four officers who responded within minutes to the shootings at Fifth Third Bancorp headquarters. The officers killed 29-year-old Omar Enrique Santa Perez after Perez fatally shot three people and wounded two others.

“Not only were the actions of the officers justified, they were heroic,” Deters wrote in a news release. He will “never know how many lives” they saved that day, he wrote.

Perez carried some 200 rounds of ammunition when he entered the bank building lobby the morning of Sept. 6, Police Chief Eliot Isaac said at a news conference the day after the shooting.

Both survivors are out of the hospital. Whitney Austin, who was shot at least a dozen times, returned home Tuesday but faces what her husband calls “a long road” in recovering physically and mentally.

Austin, a 37-year-old vice president at Fifth Third, told bank spokeswoman Laura Trujillo she was grateful to be home with her kids.

“I got to see my motivation for living,” Austin said in a statement. “I’m thankful to be alive, for all the good wishes for everyone who helped.”

Brian Sarver, a 45-year-old contractor released from the hospital Monday, offered his thanks to God and prayers for other victims and families. A 64-year-old contractor, a 48-year old bank employee and a 25-year-old engineer who worked as a consultant for the bank died in the attack.

The Fifth Third Foundation donated $1 million to support family members of those who were shot and anyone who suffered physical or psychological trauma as a result.

The bank announced Friday it started the Cincinnati Strong Victims Fund in partnership with the National Center for Victims of Crime. It hopes to match its $1 million gift with donations from community members. People can make donations online or at a Fifth Third bank branch.

Police are still trying to determine why Perez opened fire inside the building.

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Associated Press reporter Dan Sewell contributed to this report.

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