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Alum stops Knoxville shooter

July 31, 2008

John Bohstedt ’64, a scholar and author who specializes in violence and revolutions, is being credited for preventing additional deaths by restraining the shooter at his Knoxville church on Sunday.

Bohstedt told Cornell that although media reported he rushed as the shooter stopped to reload, “the four of us who were the first to hit the shooter have talked, and our experience was different from media reports. We certainly did not see anyone ‘stopping or pausing’—not the shooter, not us, nor the heroes who were shielding their children and grandchildren, not the leaders leading children away from danger.

“The whole sequence was so fast for all of us that there was no stopping. We
all wished we had gotten to him sooner, but we did what we could.”

Two people were killed and seven others were injured in the attack at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

Bohstedt is an emeritus history professor who retired this summer from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville after a career “studying and teaching about violence and the roots of collective violence, specializing in riots and revolutions that stem from quests for social justice,” reported The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“I will always be grateful that I could do what I would have wanted to do,” Bohstedt told Cornell.

In line with Cornell’s liberal arts and service tradition and his TVUUC religion, he said, “Evil walked into our church and hurt and killed people. But love was stronger and love will prevail. That’s not a prediction but an affirmation of faith and determination.”

He added, “People have called us heroes—why doesn’t that feel right? No more than the other heroes mentioned above—all of them passionately and effectively doing the right thing—no panic.

“More important: I have had heroes who saved me—among them, Cornell’s
Professors Dick Martin and Eric Kollman, and many others. I’m glad I could help this time.”

Bohstedt was a Cornell Rhodes scholar and holds a master’s degree from Oxford and a Ph.D. from Harvard. His sisters, Peggy Bohstedt Kahr ’58 and Kathy Bohstedt Harrison ’63, are also Cornellians.

To read the Chronicle story: http://chronicle.com/temp/email2.php?id=j8frrcZ5ydsTcrrpKh9jxq4vqkJKzZ9J

To read the New York Times story: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/28/us/28shooting.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

For more information, please contact Cornell's Director of Media Relations

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