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Man shielded co-worker in San Bernardino massacre

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Saturday, December 5, 2015, 2:12 AM

Environmental health inspector Shannon Johnson, 45, shielded co-worker Denise Peraza from harm before losing his life in Tuesday's massacre in San Bernardino. Facebook

Environmental health inspector Shannon Johnson, 45, shielded co-worker Denise Peraza from harm before losing his life in Tuesday’s massacre in San Bernardino. 

As masked shooters sprayed the room with as many as 76 rounds, Shannon Johnson shielded a co-worker as a final act before he died, the grateful colleague said Friday.

Denise Peraza, 27, said Johnson wrapped his arm around her, said “I got you,” and saved her life.

“Nobody is surprised,” Johnson’s girlfriend Mandy Pifer told the Daily News on Friday night after hearing the account. “Shannon would be just so embarrassed by all this attention and being called a hero. But nobody is surprised.”

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In her statement, which was posted on a memorial page raising money for Johnson’s burial in Georgia, Peraza recalled sitting next to the bearded 45-year-old at a gathering of inspectors for San Bernardino County’s public health department Wednesday morning and joking that the clock was broken because “time seemed to be moving so slowly.”

Denise Peraza, 27, said Johnson wrapped his arm around her, said "I got you," and saved her life.Facebook

Denise Peraza, 27, said Johnson wrapped his arm around her, said “I got you,” and saved her life.

It was 10:55 a.m., and just five minutes later the shooters would burst into the room and begin the mass slaughter that would claim 14 innocent lives.

Peraza and Johnson ended up huddled under the table behind a fallen chair, she said.

“While I cannot recall every single second that played out that morning, I will always remember his left arm wrapped around me, holding me as close as possible next to him behind that chair,” Peraza said.

“And amidst all the chaos, I’ll always remember him saying these three words, ‘I got you,'” she said.

“I believe I am still here today because of this amazing man. This amazing, selfless man who always brought a smile to everyone’s face in the office with his lively stories about his hometown back in Georgia, who will be deeply missed by all,” she said.

Pifer, 41, said the three words, ‘I got you,’ exemplify Johnson’s character – and the story of his final act put a smile on her face during a time of unspeakable heartbreak.

“Everybody can hear him say, ‘I got you,” in his southern drawl,” Pifer told The News. “The comfort in hearing those words is amazing. It was just so sweet. It was great. He’s a hometown hero to a lot of people.”

She said it was Johnson’s wish to be buried back in his home state of Georgia next to his dad.

Friends and family set up a GoFundMe page to raise the money needed for the out-of-state burial. Pifer said any left-over funds would go to help other families affected by the massacre.

She said beyond her grief and concern for everyone touched by the tragedy, she’s also worried about similar events taking place in the future.

“I’m not pro-gun or anti-gun. I’m just against people killing innocent people with guns,” Pifer told The News.

“If we could just get a pause on gun sales until we figure out what is going on, that might help. Let’s just have a prohibition, just for little bit and see what happens,” she said. “Ultimately, I don’t know the answer. I just don’t think anybody else should have a loved one killed like this, while they’re at a holiday party.”

With

ndillon@nydailynews.com


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