Tori Johnson, a gay man who was one of two people killed during yesterday's harrowing hostage situation in Sydney, Australia, is being called a hero for dying while trying to take down the gunman holding him and others hostage, according to multiple media reports.
Johnson managed the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney, where Haron Monis, a 50-year-old Iranian-born Australian, laid siege for 16 terrifying hours.
The siege ended early Tuesday morning local time when, CNN reports, New South Wales police stormed the building after hearing gunshots from inside the cafe.
The cable network cited a local report that the words that launched the raid by police came from a technical support sniper positioned at a second-story building across the street: "Hostage down, window two."
According to the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph newspaper, that "hostage down" was Johnson, who is said to have rushed the hostage-taker as he sat fighting to stay awake. According to the paper, Johnson "died during a heroic final standoff with the gunman, attempting to wrestle the shotgun from his hands."
"We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori, gone from this earth but forever in our memories as the most amazing life partner, son and brother we could ever wish for," a statement issued by Johnson's family said.
According to Towleroad, Johnson's partner of 14 years is Thomas Zinn. He issued the statement from the family.
The other victim, who died of a heart attack while being transported to a hospital for gunshot wounds, was a lawyer and mother of three named Katrina Dawson, who reportedly used her body to shield a pregnant friend who was also being held hostage. A moving video of a Sydney news anchor who knew Dawson shows the journalist struggling through tears to report her friend's death has already circulated around the world.
Watch CNN's out anchor Don Lemon report on Johnson and Dawson's deaths below.
A Selfless Man, Committed to Others' Well-Being
According to the Telegraph, Johnson earned a hospitality business management degree in the U.S. from Washington State University in 2003. Employers from his previous jobs in the hospitality industry were quick to describe him as "selfless" and committed to the well-being of others. His current employers were not surprised by reports that Johnson, manager for two years at Lindt Chocolate's Australia's flagship store, gave his life protecting safety of his customers.
"Tori had been with us at Lindt for just over two years and he was a great ambassador for our company and the store that he managed, which he cared about passionately," Steve Loane, Lindt Australia's CEO, said in a statement on the company's Facebook page. "He was a dedicated professional who always built a great rapport with his customers and was much loved by the Lindt team. By nature he was a perfectionist and he had a genuine passion for the hospitality industry and people."
"He was a leader. He was a very selfless person, he always put his staff before anything else," Peter Manettas of Nick's Restaurant and Bar Group, by which Johnson was employed for six years, told the U.K.'s Guardiannewspaper.
Heroes Sometimes Forgotten as Gay
An op-ed at The Huffington Post today about the events in Sydney notes that some heroes are also members of the LGBT community. "In ages past, this fact would be ignored, or not spoken about," James Peron, president of the Moorfield Storey Institute writes. To illustrate his point, he cites the tragic case of Oliver Sipple, a gay man and Vietnam War veteran who saved President Gerald R. Ford's life during an assassination attempt in 1975.
One of the heroes of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center was Mark Bingham, a gay man who, along with fellow United 93 passengers Todd Beamer, Jeremy Glick, and Tom Burnett is credited with having prevented the flight from hitting its intended target after terrorists highjacked the plane. It crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pa., killing all aboard. The fact that Bingham was gay didn't go unnoticed in the media. However, many say it was underreported.
Few of today's media reports about Johnson's heroism in Sydney highlight the fact that he was gay, as evidenced by reports in the Guardian newspaper and atCBS News. Even the CNN clip above where out anchor Don Lemon reports on Johnson's death features a casual mention of a "life partner," with no utterance the word "gay."