ATLANTA – Shaquille O’Neal is a big man with an even bigger heart. The former NBA superstar shared an exclusive video with 11Alive wishing an injured Georgia State University police officer to get well soon.
In a story first reported on 11Alive, LaToya Crook, 31, and a friend were walking near her home on Donnelly Avenue SW on Sunday night when two men came out of nowhere.
Crook was off duty, and in plain clothes. But she was armed. In a split second, at least one of the men opened fire and struck Crook twice, and she was able to return fire, forcing the men to run away.
She was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital, and is expected to leave the hospital within a few days, and make a full recovery. Atlanta police are still investigating the incident.
In the clip, the basketball legend poses as Detective Shaquille O’Neal thanks Crook for her courage.
“We love and I’m glad you are alright, baby. Take your time in getting back. People like you should ultimately be respected. I love you,” O’Neal said.
GSU Police Chief Joe Spillane said he’s sure Crook’s training and experience saved her life and her friend’s life.
“Obviously, she felt threatened," Spillane said. "Obviously, there was a presence of another weapon because she was hit twice.... She’s a good police officer, that’s why we hired her.”
Crook joined GSU police this past January. She is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Crook is a police veteran, serving in downtown Atlanta -- first, with the Georgia World Congress Center Police Department, then with the GSU Police Department, working nights and helping protect tens-of-thousands of students and faculty in the downtown Atlanta campus.
GSU Police Maj. Brian Lawton said Crook reacted instinctively when the two armed robbers attacked her and her friend.
“With her military background and police experience, that split-second decision that she made was just—how we say—muscle memory,” he told 11Alive. “She was not only able to save her own life, but her friend’s, as well.”
Atlanta police have not yet released a detailed description of the two armed robbers. And they’re not sure, yet, if the officer struck one or both of them when she returned fire.
"We're glad that she came out of this with not more serious injuries," Spillane said. "She's in really good spirits, joking around with us" and relieved she and her friend are okay.