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Good Guys with Guns: Resource Officer Stopped Gunman in 2010

Every day we cover stories of every day people defending themselves, their families, and their communities from harm with a firearm. The current conversation about mass shootings is really a conversation about Newtown and how to protect our children.

The NRA put forth the idea of putting officers in schools - an idea that President Clinton proposed as a response to Columbine. People from all sides have come out both for and against this plan. Many people ask if having an officer in schools can really protect our children. Can it?

We come to the story of yet another "good guy with a gun" that seems to be lost in the conversation. In this case it's Sullivan County School Resource Office Carolyn Gudger. Carolyn was assigned to Sullivan Central High School in Blountville, Tennesee back in 2010.



On Monday, August 30th of that year 62-year-old Vietnam veteran Thomas Richard Cowan lost it. Cowan loaded his two handguns with a total of 13 rounds, chained his beloved German Sheperd to the fence and drove from the eight miles from his home to Sullivan Central High School.

Cowan was described as an eccentric man with a history of criminal and sometimes violent behavior. There is no good reason why he picked Sullivan Central High School that day. The only known connection is that his brother is a janitor there.

Shortly after 9a.m., as second period was starting, Cowan arrived on the scene and parked in a handicapped space. Cowan went to the front door and was standing in the waiting area between two sets of doors the school had for security - all people had to be buzzed in.

Junior Ashley Thacker walked to the front door and Cowan told her to go in ahead of him. At that moment the school principal, Melanie Riden walked out of the doors accompanied by Carolyn Grudger. Cowan drew his .380 caliber handgun and pointed the gun at Riden's head.

Gudger, in her first act of a heroic afternoon, drew her gun and put her body between Riden and the gunman.





Gudger, with her gun on Cowan and his gun still on her, began slowly moving back while still shielding Riden. The two repeatedly demanded they each drop their weapons with Cowan even trying to grab Gudgers gun at one point.

"Code Red, Lockdown" blared over the school intercoms into every classroom at roughly the same time as Sullivan County police dispatch sent out the message:

Man with a gun at Central High School

Cower repeatedly said he only wanted one thing... to pull the fire alarms. What happens when fire alarms go off? Everyone leaves their classroom and enters the hallway. What more could a gunman want?

While it seemed like a lifetime to all involved, less than three minutes after Cowan drew his weapon on Principal Riden Deputies Sam Matney and Steve Williams were on the scene.

As Gudger and Cowan entered a science area behind the cafeteria, the other two officers converged. The presence of the other officers shook Cowan and he began moving his gun from one officer to another. Despite all three officers demanding Cowan put down his gun, he refused.

The deputies opened fire, striking Cowan multiple times and mortally wounding him.

I get that officers in schools is a hot topic for debate - but one thing is, and always has been true, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Putting officers in the school may not be the end all be all answer to these situations, but wouldn't you rather have someone on scene to immediately confront just such an attack?

I'll let Camry Collins, a then 17-year-old student at Central High School tell you her thoughts:

"Gudger is the bomb-diggity. She goes out of her way to protect us."


For more stories of everyday heroes, check out the December Defensive Gun Use Report

Posts: Blogs / Good Guys with Guns: Resource Officer Stopped Gunman in 2010

Posted By: Michael
01/10/13 04:54 PM

SHARE THIS STORY PEOPLE!!! Facebook it, tweet it, stumble it. whatever it.  this is the kind of story that needs to not be buried.  this is important information for the nations current gun dialog.

I don't even think its a conspiracy from a left wing media to keep these stories quiet. I think its just that there is no money in reporting the solution. the money is in reporting the problem...the fear. too sad. Hats off to Carolyn Gudger - a hero if there ever was one.
Posted By: Jayson
01/10/13 10:30 PM

That second picture is intense.
Posted By: Jason
01/10/13 10:45 PM

So you're saying that I shouldn't put text all over it saying, "pew pew pew... pew pew pew"?
Posted By: Jayson
01/10/13 10:51 PM

Normally I'd say you should absolutely do that, but I wouldn't want to joke with this one. I just keep staring at that picture. That is a scarey situation.
Posted By: Jayson
01/10/13 10:52 PM

It's unfortunate this story didn't get more recognition. She deserves it.
Posted By: holymoleygone
01/11/13 04:21 PM

A fight or flight syndrome at it best. The officer stood her ground, reminds me of mama bear protecting her kids. Our agency had a similar situation at a domestic call. Two officers were suddenly confronted with an armed (S&W model 36) suspect. One officer turned and fled out the front door leaving the second officer alone. This action so surprised the suspect that the lone officer was able to draw his weapon and command the suspect to drop the gun, which he promptly did! The lone officer commented that it scared the crap out of him looking down at the gun barrel and seeing those bullets in the cylinder pointing at him. But he stood his ground and things turned out OK. The retreating officer was not cutout for police work and after disciplinary action, chose to find another line of work. The important thing is to go home at the end of the shift. Most cowards will flee or stop their actions when confronted with force, except those who wish for suicide by cop.
Posted By: Michael
01/11/13 04:25 PM

Interesting point about the mama-bear cubs thing. They might should do some research on the possible preference for women to be armed guards in schools for that reason.
Posted By: Texar
01/13/13 09:58 AM

"Interesting point about the mama-bear cubs thing. They might should do some research on the possible preference for women to be armed guards in schools for that reason."

That is interesting and I agree with you for the most part. I will probably get burned down for saying this but here goes.......the guy still didn't get blasted untill the male officers showed up!!

I work with female officers on a daily basis and they are good officers, but in similar circumstances females will often hesitate to pull the trigger. I won't argue this though, when it comes to children you won't find a more fierce defender than "Mama Bear"!!!!!!

JMHO