KTLA spoke with Garrett Gratland, who was at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks Wednesday night as shots rang out that left 12 people and the gunman dead. Gratland returned to the scene to get his car Thursday afternoon, where KTLA's Mark Mester met him and heard his story.
Gratland recounted the moments, how he helped people escape, and how he helped officers retrieve victims. He said he witnessed Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus being shot, and helped officers get the wounded officer out of the bar.
Gratland made it out safely, but one of his friends died trying to stop the shooter.
Gratland agreed with many other patrons that Borderline felt like more than just a bar. It felt like a safe place where regulars would often run into each other.
"It's a community," Gratland said. "You walk in and you're going to know at least thirty people. You don't have to make plans or anything. Everybody there knows each other."
Gratland said although he escaped, not everyone in the group he was with made it out.
"I came with a group of about 15 people and some of that group did not make it."
Gratland said he was near the door with two girls and another guy when the shooting started, and said it only took about three shots to realize what was happening, that it was not a joke or fireworks.
"Soon as that happened, the other guy and I grabbed the girls, threw them on the floor to get on top of them," Gratland said. "Then when I saw that he directed his fire to the right, I picked them up and got them over through the smoking door, the back door."
Gratland said he then went back to help police. He said at that point, he saw Sgt. Helus get shot right in front of him.
"We had to drag him back out to safety. ... me and the officer," he said. "They did CPR on him for a while. That was not really successful."
Gratland said his time in the Army helped him prepare for such a moment. He said his actions helping get the women out, and helping officers retrieve Sgt. Helus, weren't heroic.
"It's not heroic. It's just the obvious thing to do," Gratland said. "Well, it all comes back. I did six years in the Army, so we're trained to respond like that, you know. No decision is worse than any decision. A bad decision is better than no decision."
When asked if Gratland would ever go to an event or an establishment like this ever again, he said he would.
"Well a big thing I've learned in my life is a thing called 'resilience,' and that is the ability to bounce back up. So, yes, absolutely. If the windows are patched up, I think we'll be back next week."
Gratland said his friend who died, died a hero.
"The guy who went, went in a pretty heroic fashion. He actually charged the guy and was shot while charging him. So, it's time's like these you figure out what your mettle's made of, or however that phrase goes."