Veteran raised in Portland among Las Vegas heroes - KPTV - FOX 12

Veteran raised in Portland among Las Vegas heroes

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

It’s impossible for most people to wrap their minds around all the lives that were lost and all the people who were hurt in Sunday night’s shooting in Las Vegas, but so many other were saved thanks to the heroic actions of people who kept going back toward the gunfire.

Austin Depiazza is one of those heroes. The Army veteran who grew up in Portland arrived in Las Vegas Sunday night with a group of military friends who are part of a support group to prevent military suicides called Brotherhood of the Crossed Rifles.

Depiazza told FOX 12 they were at a casino two blocks away from the concert less than an hour after they arrived when a woman ran in saying there was an active shooter.

At first, Depiazza said he didn’t know where the shooter was and that he didn’t hear gunfire.

So Depiazza and his friends – Edward Prince, Keith Hewitt and Jose Ortiz – ran outside to hear the shots.

“People were running, and there were so many of them. Thousands of people had nowhere to go,” he said. “Me and my buddy, we ran right towards it because we knew there were going to be people injured and people down and there was no help anywhere around.”

Getting into the venue wasn’t easy. Depiazza said they tore down part of a fence to get inside, and what they saw there Depiazza is still working to process.

He and his friends helped victim after victim, all while the gunfire was still raining down.

“We were seeing [the bullets] still hitting next to us,” Depiazza said. “I took off my belt, I was using it as a tourniquet for one guy, I don’t know where that went. We were helping put people who were injured into vehicles that were pulling up.”

It was no easy job. Depiazza said he saw several victims who were already gone.

“Trying to help the ones that lost people there, that was the biggest thing, getting them to safety. Because they wanted to stay there with their loved ones, which I understand, but we had to do everything to help,” he recalled. “We were getting people out of the venue trying to administer aid as best as possible under the circumstances and trying to get loved ones with their dead out of there. And we just kept going back in.”

Depiazza doesn’t know how many people he and his friends saved, or how many times they went back into the venue where bullets were still being fired. All he could focus on were the people he hadn’t yet reached who still needed his help.

“I stayed until it was over,” he said of the gunfire. “I was thinking about everybody else that has family. I have three kids, I’m thinking there’s a lot of parents out there, there’s a lot of sons, there’s a lot of daughters.”

Depiazza served in combat in Afghanistan and said the scene of the shooting was like a war zone, with one big difference:

“The only thing is it’s here,” he said. “It shouldn’t happen here. I was fine with it in Afghanistan, I knew that was my job. Here, those people were just there to have a good time.”

He learned later another one of his military friends was attending the concert and died in the gunfire.

Depiazza did have one last message for everyone still reeling from this tragedy. He said people should stop giving the shooter any recognition or power and instead focus on the victims and those who acted so quickly and heroically in those terrifying moments.

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