Ocala Student: 'I almost died' when face-to-face with Forest High accused gunman

Leah Gladdis, a junior at Ocala's Forest High School, had shown up a little late to class last Friday.  

She said she had just climbed a back staircase to “D Hallway,” ready to go to class, but not ready to have a close call with a gunman.

“I heard a gunshot,” said Gladdis.

Gladdis felt the shot was close and tried to run into her classroom, but said between all the chaos and the new locked door policy in place she was unable to get in.

“I turned to my right and Miss Panasuk was there, and she just looked at me and said, ‘Leah, come here,’” said Leah. "I walked to her, I'm crying, like freaking out cause I didn't know what was going on, and when I went to her she just held me in her arms and all the sudden Sky was right next to me."

Leah said she hadn’t realized until that moment, but a 19-year-old in a tactical vest, covered in ammo, and holding a shotgun was standing right behind her. The suspect who has admitted to the shooting and who police have identified as Sky Bouche.  

She said Bouche dropped the gun.

"He had his hands up saying ‘I just want to go to jail,’" said Leah.

At that point she said Panasuk started trying to calm Bouche, while Leah said she made a run for it like her dad had always told her to do. Leah said she ran off campus and away from the school as the lock down began and police converged on the campus.

It wasn’t until the chaos had ended that the teen realized how close she had come to danger.

Leah said she and her parents began reading about Bouche’s comments to the press from jail and watched the interview he granted with FOX 35 that night where he talked about coming out of a bathroom with gun in hand and encountering “a girl” – Leah is certain “her” in the hallway.

"When I walked out there was a woman, or girl who passed right by me,” Bouche told FOX 35 late Friday night from the Marion County Jail. "At that point, the adrenaline and the excitement just faded immediately, as soon as I had my gun in my hands and a person right there."

"I just looked at my mom and I said, 'I almost died but he chose not to kill me,'" said Leah.
In the days since, Leah and her parents Jen and Darren said they’ve been unpacking that thought, but have found peace in their faith.

Leah’s dad, Darren, is the senior reverend at the Baptist Church that partnered with Forest High to reunite students and parents that day. He said they believe it wasn’t luck that saved their daughter that day.

"You trust that God is in control of every moment of their lives, and in this case we had to rely upon that trust,” said Rev. Gaddis.

As for Bouche, the Gaddis family said they don’t hate him, in fact they said they pray for him and hope he finds peace in whatever drove him to where he is today.

Bouche is currently facing a number of charges including terrorism for that shooting. 1 student, a 17 year-old boy was shot in the leg during the incident, but is recovering.