A witness who locked eyes with a woman being held hostage said he continues to be haunted by what he saw in that fleeting instant.
"She knew that something bad was going to happen," said Waco Blakely
Retired First Sergeant Waco Blakely took in that fateful moment four weeks ago by sheer coincidence. He was driving by the Plaza Inn on I-35 at SE 29th Street, as a hostage situation spilled out into the road next to him.
The 24-year veteran has seen his fair share of violence, having served in both the Marine Corps and Air National Guard, but he said this was different; a shootout that left two police officers and a suspect wounded and an innocent woman dead.
"A thousand thoughts were just going through my head," explained Blakely.
Blakely said he looked at every possibility for rescuing Samantha Monden, the woman with whom he had locked eyes, the woman being held hostage 15 feet from his car.
"Everything just kind of slowed down," Blakely said. "I can tell you how the feet were moving, I can tell you how hair was blowing, I can tell you the stance where everybody was at."
Blakely said the suspect, Shane Rhea, was dragging Monden with a gun to her head.
"She and I made eye contact," Blakely said. "She just looked at me with this plea of absolutely [sic] help."
Blakely demonstrated what he did next by stopping his car and then stopping the traffic on I-35.
"I put my hazards on and really began to slow down," said Blakely. "Then I pulled my car into a 45-degree angle and blocked the center lane of traffic."
He said Rhea then fired a warning shot into the air.
"At that point, I'm not going to lie, I was almost frozen -- frozen in fear as to what to do," Blakely admitted. "I didn't know, should I honk the horn, should I exit my car and yell at this guy?"
Before he could do anything to help, Blakely said Rhea shot and killed Monden.
"The last face that she saw... my face, you know, and that look for help," recalled Blakely. "And I was unable to do anything."
Scarred by what he witnessed, Blakely then watched Oklahoma City police fire back at Rhea.
"The amount of gunfire kind of took me to a different place," Blakely explained.
Blakely, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from his time in combat, immediately reacted.
"It was almost like I was back in Iraq on convoy duty," Blakely said. "And so I put the petal down as far as I could and accelerated out of the scene."
He has not physically returned to the scene since, but said his mind takes him there all the time.
"It's hard for me, as the man that I am, to accept the fact that I was not able to do more," said Blakely.
Blakely said he reached out to get help for his PTSD brought on again by these events, and he encouraged other veterans struggling with a recent traumatic event to do the same and seek assistance.