The congregants at Chabad of Poway synagogue feared for their lives when they heard gunshots ring out down the hallway last week. Many began to run and hide. But while everyone was running towards safety, 51-year-old Oscar Stewart was running towards the gunfire intent on stopping the shooter.
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Stewart, who served in the Navy from 1990-1994 in an explosive ordnance disposal unit, approached the shooter who had already killed one woman and shot the finger off of a rabbi at the California synagogue. Stewart made his presence known to the shooter immediately.
“Get down!” Stewart reportedly yelled towards the shooter. “You motherf***er! I’m going to kill you!” The shooter must have been caught off guard by the fact that someone was standing up to him without a gun, but that’s exactly what Stewart did.
“I knew I had to be within five feet of this guy so his rifle couldn’t get to me,” Stewart said, relying on his prior military training. “So I ran immediately toward him, and I yelled as loud as I could. And he was scared. I scared the hell out of him.”
After being caught off guard by Stewart, the shooter dropped his gun and proceeded to run back to his car in the parking lot. Stewart again gave chase.
The shooter was able to get inside his Honda sedan and locked himself in even while Stewart searched for a way to get inside the vehicle. The shooter had another rifle inside his car which he tried to grab and load, but Stewart punched the car so hard it shook.
Just then, an off-duty Border Patrol agent, Jonathan Morales fired four bullets into the car as the shooter sped away. According to the LA Times, Stewart and Morales wrote down the license plate and called 911. The gunman later turned himself in.
Stewart told the Daily Caller: “It takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun.” After the shooter sped off, Stewart headed back to the synagogue where he gave CPR to 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye, who was lying unresponsive on the ground after being shot.
Unfortunately, Kaye passed away from her wounds. Looking back on it, Stewart explained that she was the hero, not him.
“I don’t know if I consciously made the choice to potentially sacrifice myself,” he added. “But I did. And this lady, she stood and she jumped in front of the shooter and she saved the rabbi’s life. When somebody said I was a hero, I’m like, she was a hero. I just did it instinctively, like an animal. There was no conscious decision. I just did it.”