LOVELAND, Colo. (KDVR) — A Walmart employee was hit by a car and killed last month in the store’s parking lot by an older driver, according to the Loveland Police Department. For the first time, Austin Cullon’s loved ones, while still grieving, are opening up in their first TV interview with FOX31.
Donna Cullon said she is “hanging in there,” but the last month has been extremely difficult. Cullon sat on a couch in Loveland with her sister, Jennifer Anderson, and her husband by her side.
”I miss him dearly every day,” Cullon said. “I was in total shock. I couldn’t believe that something like that would happen to him. I love you and miss you so much, my son.”
Cullon lost her son, Austin, on the afternoon of April 6. The accident shut down the Walmart at 250 W. 65th Street.
Shortly after 1 p.m. the 27-year-old cart attendant was working hard, returning carts to the store, when he was hit by a car in the parking lot. When officers arrived on the scene, they discovered Austin trapped under a 2016 Chevrolet sedan.
While the accident was unfolding, Cullon was inside the Walmart.
“I was in the Walmart when the accident happened. I was rushed outside real quick by a Walmart employee,” Cullon said. “It was just horrible. There were emergency vehicles all around and I saw him covered with a white sheet. I was telling the employee, ‘Please tell me it’s not my son, please tell me it’s not Austin.'”
Cullon said she was praying it wasn’t him, but her worst fears became a reality.
“When the detectives came in and told me it was him. All I could do was yell, ‘No, no, no, no, no!'”
Son remembered for ‘funny jokes,’ caring nature
She said that she was in denial and disbelief, almost like a fog, and she couldn’t think straight. But through all the grief and sadness, Cullon chooses to lean on her faith and remember the good times, which include his humor and heart of gold.
“He kept me in stitches a lot with his funny jokes,” Cullon laughed.
Austin graduated from Thompson Valley High School in 2014 and Cullon said he went straight to Job Corps to work with computers, which landed him in Utah and Los Angeles. After that, he returned to Colorado and worked at Denver International Airport for six years and lived in Aurora.
“He decided to move back to Loveland to be close to me,” Cullon said.
The mourning mother describes their relationship as special and said Austin left the airport and moved back to Loveland to live with her and help her make ends meet. Cullon said she’s been dealing with chronic back issues and having her son around was a blessing. The family has set up a GoFundMe to help with expenses and help Cullon get back on her feet.
“He was a great kid. He was a compassionate young man. A good Christian young man,” Cullon said. “He was just very kind. That’s the only word I can think of to describe him right now.”
But there is certainly no shortage of words. Austin’s aunt, Jennifer Anderson, sat beside her sister and read aloud messages handwritten by faithful Walmart customers and fellow employees at a memorial that now sits inside the Walmart.
Some of those messages read, “He was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met,” “He was a good man,” and “He had a heart of gold and was a hard worker.”
Anderson said Austin never had grandiose dreams, but just wanted to be a good man and she was proud of him, especially after struggling in high school and working to find his path in life.
“It warmed my heart to know that he was so loved,” Anderson said. “He was a hard worker and he enjoyed his job, and he took pride in his job. He even had regulars that would stop by just to say hello at the store.”
Family: ‘We harbor no bitterness’ toward the driver
FOX31 asked Cullon what emotions she’s feeling now that one month has passed. She said there are days where it feels just like yesterday and days where it does feel like a month has passed.
“I’m very sad, very depressed, and I get angry sometimes,” Cullon said.
But she’s practicing another emotion — forgiveness. According to the Loveland Police Department, the driver of the Chevrolet was an 83-year-old woman who did remain on the scene and was cooperative. The age of the driver has sparked criticism and discussion over the driving age. However, Austin’s loved ones are addressing the judgment.
“We harbor no bitterness and no resentment towards her,” Cullon said. “She’s probably grieving just as bad as we are. She probably has grandchildren Austin’s age, so it was an accident.”
Anderson said they are in the process of working to honor Austin’s memory through advocacy and educational messaging, but the family is urging drivers of all ages to pay attention in parking lots and be aware of their surroundings.
Loveland Police say speed and impairment are not considered factors in the crash.
Austin was laid to rest on April 14.