In the aftermath of the massacre in Las Vegas, an off-duty Tacoma police officer was among the heroes who ran towards the scene in an effort to help the victims.
Officer Aaron McNeely was in Nevada to celebrate his wife's birthday. The couple returned to their hotel room at about 10 p.m. Sunday.
"As we were going up, my wife started hearing sirens when we walked back into the lobby. We were staying at the MGM," McNeely recalled. "My wife is very tech-savvy and she has some kind of an app on her cell phone and she brought up the dispatch. And as soon as she brought it up, officers were screaming 'officers down' and within 30 seconds they were saying 20 to 40 victims hit. It sounded like complete chaos."
McNeely knew then he was no longer off-duty.
"I knew my family was safe, my wife was safe, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend were safe, so I just felt that I had to do something. To me, this isn't a job. This is a calling," he said. "I just ran to the sounds of screaming, towards Mandalay Bay, and tried to get there as quickly as I could."
He had to fight his way through the fleeing crowd in order to get to the scene.
"It was complete chaos. People were running every direction, people covered in blood, people screaming," he said. "I identified myself and say hey, what can I do to help?"
He connected with a few emergency responders who were working to load injured patients into an ambulance.
"I began rendering aid to the gunshot victims, initial aid, stopping bleeding, getting their breathing under control and helping them out," he said. "Then it got to the point where the ambulance I was with already had two victims inside of it, and someone ran up and said they had a victim shot in the back nearby who couldn't walk."
Since the ambulance driver and EMS workers were busy administering aid in the back of the ambulance, McNeely knew they had to find a way to move the ambulance closer to the patient who'd been shot in the back.
"So with the ambulance driver's permission, myself and I believe another off-duty first responder actually got into the ambulance and drove it 200 yards to where that victim was at, rendered aid to her, and got her in the ambulance," he said.
He continued helping at the scene until about 2 a.m.
In an eerie twist, McNeely and his wife were actually supposed to attend the outdoor music festival that the shooter targeted. They sold their tickets a few hours before the show because a friend they were supposed to go with could no longer make it.
"Everything happens for a reason. I don't know. Maybe God took us away from there to put me in a place where I could better assist; I don't know," he said.
But Officer McNeely doesn't want any credit for his actions. He says Las Vegas police officers and first responders displayed the utmost professionalism and heroism throughout the evening, and he was honored to work by their side.
"I don't need to be thanked. I didn't do anything I don't think any other officer in this department or first responder anywhere in the country would've done. To me, it was just something you have to do," he said.
Before joining the Tacoma Police Department, McNeely spent four years in the Army. He compared the scene in Las Vegas to his military experience.
"I've been in situations like that overseas when I was in the military, and this was without a doubt the most intense and chaotic scene I've even been a part of. I just wanted to do my best to help," he said.
McNeely and his wife returned home to Tacoma early Tuesday morning. He's off for a few more days and is set to return to work at the Tacoma Police Department on Thursday.
"I'm ready to get back to it," he said.