Keanon Lowe, a young high school football coach, demonstrated the beauty of fighting violence with love as well as anyone I’ve ever seen.
Lowe served as a security guard at Parkrose High School to supplement his coaching duties. One morning he was responding to a teacher’s report of a missing student when 19-year-old Angel Granados-Diaz stepped in with a shotgun. What he did at that point was the instinctual action that proceeds from the heart, when you have no time to plan your actions but just to act as the person you’ve trained yourself to be.
“The door opens – I’m within arm’s length of the door, about 3 feet away from the door, and there’s a kid with a gun, a shotgun. In a fraction of a second, I analysed everything really fast.”
“I saw the look on his face, look in his eyes, looked at the gun, realised it was a real gun and then my instincts just took over. I lunged for the gun, put two hands on the gun. He had his two hands on the gun and obviously, the kids are running out of the classroom and screaming.”
Coach Lowe wrestled Angel to the ground and managed to pull the gun away. With the gun secure, he allowed Angel to get back up and led/pulled him out of the classroom. Security camera footage taken from the hallway shows the pair exiting together. What happened next is the most remarkable part of the story.
Coach Lowe explains his actions:
“I felt compassion for the kid, to be honest. I had a real-life conversation. Obviously, he broke down and I just wanted to let him know that I was there for him. I told him I was there to save him — I was there for a reason and that this is a life worth living.”
“It was emotional for him, it was emotional for me. In that time, I felt compassion for him. A lot of times, especially when you’re young, you don’t realize what you’re doing until it’s over.”
He had used force to stop the young man from using the gun, to stop anyone from getting hurt. But it was not the violent force that comes from judgment and condemnation. It was not the force which disregards another human’s life. Coach Lowe used force with compassion, out of the desire that everyone make it out alive, because every life is worth living. That is why he embraced him, calmed him, counseled him, and treated him like another human being in a desperate time.
Though it was impossible to know at the time, in retrospect it appears that Angel was only planning to kill himself. He did not intend to put other students in danger but suffered from social anxiety and had became distraught when his girlfriend broke up with him. Of course, it is true that when you are brandishing a loaded gun the unintended consequences can be severe.
But even if Angel’s life was the only life Coach Lowe saved that day, that life was worth saving.
There are other ways beyond force that can disrupt violence. In the past I’ve shared stories about a dinner party that stopped an armed thief with hospitality, what one woman did to take control of the situation when an intruder broke into her bedroom, and how a school employee convinced an active shooter to turn himself in. There are people who feel they are physically unable to stop violence with force and must use other means, including Peregrine who described how she “gets in the way” instead.
But force can be used. I’ve done my best to read Jesus’s teachings and the New Testament in full on this issue. The important aspect is not whether or not you use force. The most important question is, did you act in love? Was your response the most loving thing possible for all involved? And second but also essential, did you act without judgment? Did you choose to condemn the soul of another, treat their life as if it was expendable, or did you withhold that judgment as God’s alone?
Of course, those questions are a bit abstract. Watch the video of Coach Lowe embracing the young man who only seconds earlier had entered the room with a shotgun, hear his thoughts about that moment, and you can feel what love for another person in a crisis can be.