Retail clerk Allyson Taylor, 18, was taken hostage by a gunman in a Yuba City, California Big 5 Sporting Goods store last week. She heroically freed herself and others by convincing the man to turn himself in.
Taylor was working as an in-store greeter on Sunday when the gunman arrived.
Police reports say Juan Carlos Alvarez, 29, went into the store and fired his gun in the air. He then quickly grabbed Taylor’s neck and told her to open the safe.
Taylor told Good Morning America that he “lifted up his shirt, pulled the gun out...and immediately pointed at [her].”
The shooter then told customers to leave the store, while Taylor’s manager found a hiding place to safely call 911. His call was received just before 11 a.m. that Sunday. He told the 911 operator that he had “a gun shot in the store” and that he “need[ed] an officer here now,” informing him that he was also hiding under the desk in his office.
Just after the call, Alvarez took Taylor into the office where the safe was and told her to open it. She said she didn’t know how to open the safe, to which he replied that he “didn’t want the money anyway.” He then kept her there for four hours.
Taylor took advantage of these hours by talking to him and establishing a relationship. She knew that “it would be easier for him to shoot [her] if [she] didn’t look him in the eye or if [she] didn’t talk to him, make a connection with him.”
Taylor brought up his family and asked him about his future hopes and dreams. She discovered that Alvarez didn’t want to die that day and that he wanted to see his daughter again. She assured him that if he let her go, he would be able to see his daughter again. “The cops are going to help you,” Taylor said.
She was eventually able to convince him to put his weapon away and turn himself in just after 3 p.m.
“I just started shaking, I could barely walk out of the store,’ Taylor said. “But once I was in the hands of the police officers, I knew at that point I was fine and OK.”
The police were in “awe” of Taylor, praising her for acting calm and cautious.
Shawna Pavey, operations support manager of the Yuba City Police Department, said Taylor “knew when to push, she knew when to let him be. You can’t help but thank her enough and be in awe of that young girl.”
Coworkers also praised Taylor’s heroic act. Fellow employee Matt Rasul said “she was completely vulnerable” in that moment, and her strength was “admirable.”
Many would be hesitant to return to work after experiencing a hostage situation, but Taylor says she can’t wait to get back.