Standout members of the security industry were honored at an award show in Rancho Mirage, including one security team for their heroic rescues at the Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting in July.
It was the end of their shift on the fifth day of the festival when they thought they heard fireworks ringing out. They quickly learned it was an active shooter and jumped into action, ultimately saving lives.
“As we ran to the site and over the hill I could hear rapid fire gunshots,” said Mathew Luther, a branch manager for First Security Services.
“They said it was gunshots. Natural reaction for me, I just ran into it,” said Eric Bahri, a security officer with First Security. “I didn’t think about anything else. I thought, ‘Go help people, that’s my job, I’m the security officer, this what I’m paid to do.”
As people screamed, cried and ran, the officers worked to get them to safety, pushing them to the ground and getting gunshot victims help.
“I didn’t have much time to react,” Bahri said. “I knew I had to act fast; I had to act now. Every second that goes by, a life can be lost.”
Amid chaos, one officer even exchanged gunfire with the shooter. They say he appeared determined to kill as many people as possible.
“Bullet proof vest looked military grade to me,” Bahri said. “Weapon didn’t look legal to me, looked fully automatic, sounded fully automatic. … I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. You see it on the news every day, it’s a regular thing but until it happens to you, then you start realizing how much of a problem this is in this country.”
Their actions are now being celebrated as heroic, but they say the memories linger like scars. Yet they continue to push forward and heal.
“Not only to continue to grow from this incident, but also to strengthen each other’s bond and the relationship of this small community. To go out and continue life,” said Paul Gutierrez.
Those officers and three others with First Security were presented with the Lifesaving Award.