'It Was Like Some Awful Movie': Son Recalls Mother’s Shooting Death as She Saved Children in Last Moments (Exclusive)

Gloria Crews, 64, was hosting a Mother’s Day party when several shooters opened fire. Another family member was the intended target, her son tells PEOPLE exclusively

<p>Crews Family</p> Gloria Crews

Crews Family

Gloria Crews

Gloria Crews had been cooking for the family on Mother’s Day: baked and fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, dressing, corn bread, strawberry shortcake – “some of everything,” her son, Jerrell Crews recalls — enough to serve about 100 people expected to pass through.

But around 7 p.m., Sunday, May 12 – as kids played in the front yard of the Montgomery, Ala., home – multiple people popped from behind the bushes with automatic assault rifles, firing what Jerrell estimates to be “close to 100 shots.”

“It was like some awful movie,” says Jerrell, who spoke exclusively with PEOPLE.

A teen family member — who was the intended target, according to Jerrell — had just arrived.

As Gloria, 64, rushed the children inside to safety, a bullet struck her in the neck, and she collapsed in the front yard, says Jerrell, 43, who was two doors down at his own home and came running back to the party when he heard gunfire.

“She didn’t die instantly,” recalls Jerrell. When he got to his mother: “She was losing her breath.”

Montgomery police have only released a brief press release confirming the ongoing homicide investigation.

Major Saba Coleman declined to provide additional information Monday, May 20.

No arrests have been made.

<p>Crews Family</p> Gloria Crews with her son, Jerrell Crews.

Crews Family

Gloria Crews with her son, Jerrell Crews.

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Central Alabama Crime Stoppers confirmed to PEOPLE in an emailed press release Monday that the reward for “information that leads to the identification and arrest of the shooter” has increased to $20,000 cash, with city and county leaders coming together in “a stand against violence.”

“With our gun laws, anybody can have a gun,” says Jerrell. Alabama does not prohibit the purchase or possession of firearms by juvenile offenders. “They’ve got us walking around here like the Wild Wild West. They need to tighten it up.”

The military wife had three children, living on military bases as far as Hawaii and Germany. Everywhere they lived, Jerrell says, his mother was known for her cooking.

The family returned to Alabama before her husband’s death in 1998, and Gloria resumed a catering job – for which she was first hired at 16.

In her fifties, Gloria also took in her nephew, Lavonte Lockley, now 8, who she raised as her fourth child. She has six grandchildren.

“But to be honest with you, she had more kids than that,” Jerrell says. “Every kid in the neighborhood was at her house. If somebody comes to her and has a problem, she steps up.”

<p>Crews Family</p> A lifelong caterer known for her dishes from her home state of Alabama to Germany where she lived with her military husband, Gloria Crews, 64 was "always cooking for us," her son, Jerrell Crews tells PEOPLE.

Crews Family

A lifelong caterer known for her dishes from her home state of Alabama to Germany where she lived with her military husband, Gloria Crews, 64 was "always cooking for us," her son, Jerrell Crews tells PEOPLE.

The matriarch of the family, Gloria was also the caretaker to her father who died this year, and to her mother, who has survived her.

“She showed her love with action,” Jerrell says. “She was always thinking out of the box: making something out of nothing.”

Raised by a preacher father who could often be overheard singing a gospel song with the chorus “I'll run on– see what the end's goin' be,” Gloria’s faith was so ingrained in her being “she couldn’t help it,” her son says.

A member of her own church choir, she sang one last time that Mother’s Day morning.

Every morning since has been difficult, says Jerrell, who woke up to his mother’s phone calls: “Alright,” she would say. “Breakfast is ready, come on.”

“I miss that already,” he adds. “Sometimes I can make myself feel like she’s in the house, or hasn’t gotten there yet, or is about to pull up. I miss her voice.”

Gloria’s funeral is set for Saturday, May 25. Her family has set up a verified GoFundMe to cover the cost of arrangements.

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