JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Sgt. Carlos M. Morales, a paratrooper with the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division from Los Angeles, moved in with a quick response to aid a shooting victim March 16, 2013, at an Anchorage Wal-Mart.
Jason Mahi, 33, the Wal-Mart store’s assistant manager was left bleeding from the lower right abdominal area after being shot by a double amputee, Daniel Pirtle. The altercation stemmed from an argument about the handicapped man’s service dog.
According to reports, Pirtle became angered when he was told to leave the store because his service dog was not on a leash. His anger escalated into violence when he pulled out a pistol and shot Mahi in the abdomen.
Morales, who was in the Wal-Mart with his wife and two children at the time of the shooting, said he quickly moved to render first aid on Mahi soon after the gunshot was fired. Morales, along with a female medical professional who was also shopping at the time of the shooting, rendered first aid until emergency medical personnel arrived on the scene.
Morales never did see the gunman or the dog, but did hear the gunshot from a few aisles away. He first thought the gunshot was something hard and heavy dropped from a shelf. Then seconds later a woman ran by saying someone was shot.
Morales decided he would do what he could to help.
“I heard the shooter had left, so I told my wife, I’m like, babe, just take the kids, go out to the car and wait for me. I have to help this guy out,” said Morales.
“My main thing was just to help any way that I can,” said Morales. “Once I got there, the first thing I did was get two boxes, then realized they were too high, then went to one box. I put up his feet, untied his shoelaces, and then just talked to him to make sure that he knew what was going on.”
“He kept talking about his son,” said Morales. “Another Wal-Mart employee told him, ‘Don’t worry, you will get to see your son once this is all over.’”
Morales said his training as a Combat Life Saver, his five combat tours, and his 12 years of experience in the Army helped him provide first aid. He helped Mahi by elevating his feet to relieve pressure on his abdomen, loosened his shoes, and spoke to him in a reassuring voice, while the medical professional worked to stop the bleeding.
Emergency personnel were very fast to respond said Morales.
“When I say they were quick, they were quick! There were paramedics there within minutes. We had enough time to lift his feet up, find a first aid kit, apply pressure on his lower abdomen, and that was it. We talked to him for maybe a minute, and bam, the police and everybody was there.”
Morales said he was surprised that there were not many notifications to alert shoppers in the store about the shooting.
An interesting tie revealed itself when Morales received a text from a soldier in his unit. It was Spc. Austin Billaber who is a cousin of the shooting victim. Billaber thanked him via the text for helping Mahi. Billaber also relayed thanks from the rest of Mahi’s family.
Morales said Mahi is still in the hospital recovering from the gunshot wound.
“Knowing its one of my soldier’s relatives makes it more personal,” said Morales. “The guy was like one of my family members. That’s how I feel. It is a small world out there, and I’m just thankful I can help out any way I can.”