He was shopping in Foot Locker when he heard gunfire inside the mall. The store immediately closed its front gate, but when shoppers lifted the gate to escape the mall, Oakley ran out of the store with them.
Oakley, who said he has a license to carry a firearm, pulled out his gun for protection.
As he made his way out of Foot Locker, Oakley said, he said he saw kids running around alone in the mall, apparently lost in the confusion.
"I got my bag in my hand, so I was just trying to pick them up one by one, as many as I can and just run out," Oakley told a local KTSM reporter.
He said the anxious kids were squirming in his arms, so he just did what he could and ran out of the mall with them.
"It was a whole bunch of kids in there," he said of the scene inside the mall. "I hope nothing happened to the kids. I tried to pick up as many as I could and bring them out with me."
Oakley said he is in the military, so he is trained to respond to threats.
"When I hear gunshots I just think ... take cover, save whoever you can," Oakley said.
But when asked how he feels about what he just experienced, Oakley could only think of one thing.
"I wasn't really worried about myself. It just brings back flashbacks of, ya know ... I just hope those kids are alright, that's all I'm thinking about right now is those kids. I'm not even worried about myself," he said.
El Paso Police said there were "multiple fatalities" from the shooting in the area of the shopping complex, which includes the mall and the nearby Walmart.