Oklahoma City police have released the names of the two armed citizens who stopped an active shooter situation last week at a lakeside restaurant.
Police Chief Bo Matthews said during a Friday news conference that Juan Carlos Nazario, 35, and Bryan Whittle, 39, each retrieved a handgun from their vehicles when a 28-year-old man opened fire with a handgun of his own at a crowded restaurant called Louie’s.
“I was just there enjoying the lake scenery and heard shots,” Nazario told NBC News. “At that point I zoned out and had to take action. Just glad no innocent bystanders’ lives were taken, and unfortunately a life was lost, but he had a choice to drop the weapon and chose otherwise.”
Nazario said he confronted the suspect in the parking lot and told him multiple times to drop his gun. When the man raised his firearm to shoot into the parking lot, Nazario fired two shots and “he just fell to the ground.”
Three restaurant-goers were shot, but all three are in good condition, Matthews said.
Though police have also credited Whittle with playing a role in the incident, it isn’t yet clear what actions Whittle took. Both men have said they never crossed paths.
“You can say they’re heroes, which is a good thing to say,” Matthews told reporters. “But I think they stopped a very tragic situation from going any further.”
Whittle, during an interview with USA Today, echoed Matthews’ sentiment.
“I just did what needed to be done to stop the threat. Nothing special,” he said. “A lot of people would have done the same given the situation.”
“I just can’t understand being called a hero when someone’s life was taken,” Nazario told USA Today.
When asked whether Nazario or Whittle had a concealed carry license, Matthews brushed the question aside because neither man was carrying when they retrieved their weapons from their vehicles.
Matthews also said they won’t have to worry about facing criminal prosecution.
“They were protecting somebody else’s life,” he said. “I can tell you historically … these guys were protecting somebody else’s life, I would think more than likely they would not be filed on.”
Police are still searching for a possible motive for the shooting. Matthew said the suspect doesn’t appear to have had any connection to the restaurant or anyone who was inside.
“It looks to me like a random event,” Matthews said. “I mean, in an act like this, you would have to assume that he probably had a little bit of a mental illness.”
Subsequent reports have all but confirmed Matthews hunch. The suspect posted a series of disturbing videos on YouTube in the months leading up to the shooting.
In his most recent video, uploaded on April 27, the shooter says his “life is in danger” and that “Satan is after me.”
He describes hearing tapping, cracking and loud booms in his home, and believes that “the devil is after my (expletive) ass.”
He asks for “real people” to contact him because he’s under a “demonic attack.”
“I’m feeling really bad right now,” he said. “I’m super stressed.”
The incident comes two weeks after Republican Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed constitutional carry, and she used the foiled mass murder to underscore the current laws as “effective, appropriate and minimal.”
“I am thankful that under the concealed-carry and open-carry laws that I have signed as governor, two armed citizens had the ability to protect and save the lives of our fellow Oklahomans,” she said Friday. “This is not the time to debate the NRA’s efforts to repeal Oklahoma’s regulations assuring safety and training for those who carry guns. This is a time to offer up prayers to the victims of this tragedy.”