'A good Samaritan' emerges out of an ugly shooting

I don't naturally click on too many stories about shootings. We live in an urban environment, and the more you read, the more paranoid you can get. That said, stories about a shooting can turn up stories of bravery and kindness, stories that show sparks of selflessness in the middle of a messy situation.

Stories are circulating about the man who threw coffeehouse stools during recent shootings in Seattle to prevent the shooter from killing more people. Another story that popped up on my radar about someone the Seattle Times called "a good Samaritan" for staying with a woman while she died. The setup is pretty gripping:

Just before Ian Stawicki shot Gloria Koch Leonidas, he was standing over her, straddling her. He pulled out a black gun, leaned down and extended his arm. He fired one shot into her head.

Jo Ann Stremler saw it out her driver's side window. She was heading west on Seneca Street after a doctor's visit and was stopped at a light when she heard someone scream, "Help me! Help me!" She looked left to see a man kicking someone who was flat on the ground. She grabbed her phone and dialed 911.

That's when Stawicki fired.

Since "good Samaritan" is a pretty biblical idea, I wondered whether there was something more, naturally, a religion angle. Lo and behold, the reporter "gets religion."

On Thursday, Stremler, 55, sat in a conference room at University Presbyterian Church where she plays the organ at three services each Sunday. She described how she acted without hesitation.

"I didn't know I was capable of what I did yesterday," Stremler said.

She knows she can play from memory all 810 songs in the hymnals. She's played organ for 42 years, hired for her first paid job at 13.

She couldn't drive, so volunteers from the congregation would drive the 24 miles from town to her parents' dairy farm just shy of the Canadian border. She played every Sunday and practiced with the choir. When there was a wedding or memorial, she played, too. It was awkward at her age, but "just something I had to do," Stremler said.

Just as she had to help Leonidas on Wednesday.

I could be a little picky and ask for a few more details or quotes about death and the afterlife, but overall, the piece is nicely done. Yes, when you're covering a shooting, you need basic details a crime reporter will naturally track down. But a story like this shows how reporters can find nuggets that show another side of a tragedy.

Image of Good Samaritan via Wikimedia Commons.

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