‘I knew my life was in danger’: SmileDirectClub security guard recounts encounter with gunman

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — An on-site security guard is speaking out after he says he exchanged gunfire with the gunman responsible for the SmileDirectClub shooting at the company’s Antioch facility last month.  

Johnny Hardin was shot twice during his encounter with a 22-year-old employee who walked into the facility and opened fire. He suffered a gunshot wound to his leg and a bullet to his stomach which is still in his body.  

“In the process of the exchange in gunfire I ended up getting hit twice but the main thing was going forward trying to do the right thing,” Hardin said. “I knew that my life was in danger, but I also felt like I had an obligation to try to help others. It’s a lot to digest when you know you’re engaged in something you may not make it out of.” 

Metro police later identified the gunman as Antonio King who came to the building during his shift change. King was shot by police after fleeing from the building and not obeying commands to drop his weapon, according to MNPD.  

A total of three employees were shot, including Hardin, 66-year-old Carlton Watson, and 54-year-old Thomas Abbott. Hardin and Watson worked for Allied Universal Security and Abbott was a manager at the facility.  

Hardin said it was a team effort to protect the employees inside of the facility that day.  

“All three of our actions were very heroic, you know, it wasn’t just one person,” Hardin said. “As armed security, we took our jobs serious, we put our lives on the line to try to protect others.” 

Hardin normally works at SmileDirectClub’s La Vergne location and was at the Antioch facility for training on August 3, when the shooting took place. He said his fellow security guard was shot and on the ground when he swung into action. After Hardin realized he was shot he said he passed his weapon and a magazine to the manager.  

“That day, I’m thinking it’s a typical day of work, you go to work you go home, routine, nothing crazy or out of the ordinary,” Hardin recalled. “SmileDirect has been a lovely place to work at, I wanted to say that.”

Hardin said his biggest takeaway from that day is how quickly everything can change.

“Life is very precious and there’s nothing guaranteed to us,” Hardin said. “It’s [a] life-changing thing because I realize that I very well could not be here today, that’s the reality of it. I could have been gone.” 

Hardin expects to be out of work due to his injuries until at least October.  

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