Thursday night began like many others for two men who happened to be heading into the same restaurant. Neither knew the other. Before they could get inside, they heard gunshots. As both men had guns with them, they did what they could to end the shooting. Now both men are being credited with stopping a mass shooting.
“Juan Carlos Nazario, 35, and Bryan Whittle, 39, were standing outside Louie’s Grill and Bar on Thursday about 6.30pm when the two men heard gunshots,” The Daily Mail writes.
Nazario is a security guard. After the shooting, he told reporters he “just did what I was trained to do to neutralize the situation.”
“I saw people who were wounded and could just see the worry in their eyes,” he said. “I told them I was looking for the gunman and I’m here to help.”
Whittle is a member of the National Guard who has served in Afghanistan. He explained he “just did what anyone would have done to help.”
Whittle’s estimation of what “anyone would have done” seems a bit generous. Few would have confronted the situation in the way he did, instead of simply running away.
Nazario fired the shot that killed the gunman, Alex Tilghman, in the parking lot. He asked the man to drop his gun. Instead, Tilghman fired another shot. Nazario shot him twice.
Tilghman, the gunman who had just stormed into the restaurant and opened fire, was the only fatality.
“I just can’t understand being called a hero when someone’s life was taken,” Nazario said.
“I just did what I had to do. I’m very glad no innocent lives were taken but ultimately, there was a life taken.”
He was taken into custody after the shooting, but released soon after.
After the incident, irrational responses to the shooting flooding the comment sections of news sites. Many criticized Nazario for shooting a man they perceived to have been fleeing the scene. He was, the comments implied, no longer a threat.
Others strongly disagree. Police Captain Bo Mathews defended their actions. “I consider them as two people who stopped an incident that was very bad… we had no idea what he was going to do when he left the restaurant,” he said.
“It could have really been bad… we’re very blessed that only three people were shot and didn’t lose their lives.”
One witness said Tilghman left the restaurant and hid between cars. Why remains uncertain, though some assume it was to ambush responding officers.
Ron Benton was in the restaurant and watched the two men go after the gunman. “Anybody who feels compelled when they hear shots fired [to] go into that direction and help out – I mean what do you say about that person? That person is a badass,” he said.
Inside the restaurant, Tilghman fired at random. “He shot mother-of-two and Air Force veteran Natalie Will in the arm,” DM notes, “her 12-year-old daughter Syniah in the tailbone and another 14-year-old girl who was accompanying the family was shot.”
The three victims inside the restaurant will survive, they face a long road of recovery. As for the two men who ran toward the danger, they could well face charges for killing the shooter. Authorities, at least at this time, do not expect to file any.