Fifth Third mass shooting survivor feeling “Strong”

LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) — Naming the new family kitty after the Cincinnati police officer who risked his life to save the life of a mother of two…is there a better honor?

Whitney Austin, 37, and family got Alphonso the cat about a month after Austin returned home to Louisville to continue her recovery from 12 gunshot wounds.

“Even just petting him is therapy for my hands,” Austin said while running her fingers through Alphonso’s fur.

Whitney austin and alfonso the cat

Whitney Austin and her family named their new cat after the officer who helped save her life after she was shot in Cincinnati.


It’s been seven months since Sept. 6 the day Omar Perez, 29, went on a shooting spree in the lobby of Fifth Third Bank headquarters in Cincinnati.

Before police returned fire killing Perez, he had already killed three and injured two, including Austin.

Cincinnati bank shooting suspect

WHAS11/Cincinnati Police

“Bullets shattered three different bones,” Austin said showing the scars on her right arm and pointing out entry and exit wounds on her left arm.

Since that day of terror, there have been other deadly mass shootings around the country, including Thousand Oaks and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

RELATED: Louisville woman happy to be home after Cincinnati shooting

RELATED: Victim shares story, continues recovery following Cincinnati bank shooting

Locally, there was the Kroger deadly shooting in Jeffersontown leaving two dead…one inside the grocery store and the other outside in the parking lot.

That very day, Austin had returned from surgery in Cincinnati.

“To come home and then see it happening in your own city was really, really difficult to take.”

But Austin says she found strength in her non-profit Whitney Strong, which as the homepage states, is “dedicated to reducing gun violence by promoting, advocating and supporting responsible gun ownership.”

RELATED: After 12 gunshot wounds, local woman shares how she survived Cincinnati bank shooting

RELATED: Ky. mother of 2 wounded in deadly Cincinnati shooting: ‘I don’t have any sorrow’

“We have a Second Amendment, we believe in the Second Amendment, but we also believe in the importance of responsible gun ownership,” Austin said.

The mission of Whitney Strong is a three-pronged approach, and Austin believes her change is more realistic than other movements due to majority support and proven success.

First, promote effective ways to prevent gun involved suicides.

For example, Austin said, providing suicide prevention literature at gun shops like they do in New Hampshire.

Second, target existing federal laws which are failing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those found to be mentally ill.

And third, creating and funding so-called “red flag” state laws to keep guns away from dangerous people in crisis.

RELATED: Cincinnati victims didn’t have any known links to gunman

RELATED: 4 people dead, including gunman, in downtown Cincinnati shooting

“We’re here to talk about those solutions that the majority support and once they are identified and we can get both sides of the aisle on board, push, push, push,” Austin said.  “You all agree, let’s get this one done.”

Austin plans to return to her corporate marketing job with Fifth Third, while staying as equally committed to advancing Whitney Strong with a target on ending gun violence.

►Contact reporter John Charlton at Follow him on Twitter (@JCharltonNews) and Facebook.