OKLAHOMA CITY — One of two armed bystanders credited with fatally shooting a gunman who opened fire at an Oklahoma City restaurant said he crouched behind cars as he approached the shooter and tried to get him to drop his weapon but the man kept firing.
Bryan Whittle gave his first detailed account of the Thursday night shooting while speaking with The Oklahoman on Saturday. He scoffed at suggestions he was a hero, saying: “I just feel like I’m just an average guy who had the right tool to help at the right time.”
Whittle said he and his wife were driving by the lakeside restaurant, Louie’s On The Lake, when they saw a commotion outside. Whittle said he pulled into the parking lot, and witnesses pointed out the gunman, who investigators say had shot and wounded a woman and two girls inside.
“I just reacted,” the 39-year-old said. “I wasn’t thinking about anything other than I had to stop this guy and I’m not going to die here.”
Whittle, a master sergeant in the Oklahoma Air National Guard, said he grabbed his .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol and moved toward where everyone was pointing. He said he crouched behind parked cars for cover and yelled at the gunman to drop his weapon. He realized the gunman was wearing protective ear gear, so he gestured with his hand, but the gunman raised his weapon.
Whittle said he heard gunshots. He dove. He said he jumped back up and ran around to the other side of the car. The gunman turned around and looked at him.
“I see the gun again in his hand. And then I, you know, finished trying to stop the threat. Until he fell on the ground,” Whittle said.
He wasn’t aware that another armed civilian had come to help until he heard that man say, “Clear him. I got you. Clear him.”
The other armed bystander, Juan Carlos Nazario, is a trained security guard. He hasn’t talked at length with the media about the confrontation, but he told local television station KWTV that he “just did what I was trained to do to neutralize the situation.”
Whittle, who said he had been deployed eight times in his 18 years of military service, agreed to publicly detail the shooting at the urging of his great-uncle, state Rep. Bobby Cleveland.
“Bryan is a very rare individual,” Cleveland said. “He just feels ... he just happened to be there in the right time at the right place.”
Police said the gunman wounded three people at the restaurant: a 39-year-old woman who was grazed by bullets; her 12-year-old daughter, who was shot in the stomach and remains hospitalized; and a 14-year-old family friend who was shot in her arm or wrist. The trio was shot as they entered the restaurant for a birthday dinner and didn’t know the gunman, according to relatives.
Police have said shooting appeared to be random and confirmed they were looking into the mental health of the suspected gunman, Alexander Tilghman.
The FBI said Saturday it had been contacted about a YouTube channel associated with Tilghman, 28, but determined no further action was needed.
Officials said a caller earlier this month reported concerns about the channel, but didn’t mention any potential threat of violence and didn’t have knowledge of the man possessing weapons. The FBI said that per protocol, no further investigation was warranted.
Earlier this year, the FBI got an informal tip regarding the YouTube account but determined the content was protected by the First Amendment.
In the channel, Tilghman describes demons possessing his TV and says he’s “really losing it.” He calmly begs for help from “a real human” in one video, saying he’s suicidal, lonely and “really losing it.”