What was supposed to be a typical trip to Las Vegas left U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Mazi and his wife with more memories than they bargained for – music, dancing, chaos and gunfire – and a wild story that only recently has been shared.
After returning from a short-notice deployment to Iraq, Mazi and his wife, Alejandra, decided to celebrate a belated honeymoon at a three-day country music festival in Las Vegas in October 2017. The two would soon find themselves caught in the middle of what would become the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Around 10:15 p.m. – about halfway through the concert's last performance – a lone gunman positioned on the 32nd story of an adjacent hotel began shooting into the 20,000-person crowd below.
For the next three hours, the arena would be a killing field that left almost 60 dead and more than 500 injured.
Mazi said that most spectators didn’t notice the gunman’s first wave of shooting, probably assuming the ruckus was part of the performance.
The second salvo of gunfire caused the crowd to react, he said: “It was chaotic, a lot of people running around not knowing what to do.”
Relying on his Navy training, the intelligence specialist estimated the gunman's location and began actively directing others toward concealed locations, he said. Paying attention to the breaks in fire, Mazi and his wife then found cover for themselves.
“And at that point is when I noticed the lady get shot,” he said, referring to a spectator who was trying to escape the gunfire. “Instinctively, I turned around, ran back out and grabbed her.”
Mazi administered initial first aid on the woman and then brought her to a safe location, he said. He then began shepherding others, many injured, across a small bridge and away from the concert’s arena.
Even after Mazi and his wife found refuge in a nearby hotel, he began helping first responders triage and care for the wounded, he said.
The couple flew home the next day, he said, and remained private about the experience until recently.
Mazi’s response recently earned him the Navy-Marine Corps Medal – a coveted award that recognizes heroism outside of a war zone – as well as high praise from senior Navy and CENTCOM leadership at a Dec. 18 ceremony here.
Mazi’s wife was initially shocked to see her husband in “military mode” for the first time, she said. It took a few minutes for her to recognize what compelled her husband to run back into gunfire to rescue a stranger.
“This is what he does,” Alejandra said. “This is his calling. This is why I married him.”