‘I was five feet away:’ Tribal member recounts terrifying experience during Pendleton casino shooting

PENDLETON, Ore. — It was supposed to be a fun day filled with brunch and gambling for Portland resident and tribal member Shalaya Williams and her 90-year-old grandmother as they headed out to the Wildhorse Resort and Casino in Pendleton.

The duo had decided to split up — with Williams planning to check out roulette while the senior headed straight to the machines nearest to one of the casino’s entrances.

But as Williams turned to walk down where the tables were, she noticed an aggravated man yelling at some of the nearby cashiers.

“I was walking right toward him. You could see his anger,” Williams said. “For some reason, I go something don’t feel right.”

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After ducking behind a blind corner, Williams said she turned back to survey the scene. That’s when she noticed the man was holding a large bag filled with cash.

“I turned to my sister-in-law, she’s security. She was right behind me, and I just made eye contact with her and she was on her radio. So right then I knew something was wrong,” Williams said. “He was probably like, five feet from me around that corner. I looked around that corner, and I see the gun in his holster. He was yelling at the cashiers. He was saying, ‘you know who the f*** I am?'”

Immediately, Williams’ fight or flight instincts kicked in as security began screaming for casino-goers to “get out of here.”

“I see people coming towards me and I’m like, ‘don’t go this way. Turn around,'” Williams said. “He started going to the exit and I was like, ‘oh, my Grandma.’ So I booked it all the way around the other way.”

Thankfully, the senior was where Williams had left her — on the same machine by the door.

“I was like, ‘Grandma, we gotta go,'” Williams recalled. “She’s about to be 91. So I was trying to rush her [and] that was really stressful. I turned to turn my head just slightly and all these people are running toward us. That’s when she started moving because she knew something was wrong.”

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Shortly after, a shootout with tribal police ensued, injuring the gunman and a female bystander who was later identified as a Pendleton School District staff member.

“I felt very relieved,” Williams said, as she watched officials take the man into custody. “It just wasn’t right for that to happen. I was just a gambler trying to go do something fun but the workers… I couldn’t imagine having a gun pulled on me. But they did the proper procedures. They did what they were trained to do.”