A 17-year-old Houston hero was on his way to the doctor’s office Sunday when he stopped to help a man crying in pain on the ground. It wasn’t until later that Nicolas Latiolais realized the man suffered from gunshot wounds—and that the shooting was ongoing.
“I thought it was just a car accident,” Latiolais told The Daily Beast. “There were three other people on the scene. They were just looking down on the man while he was screaming, ‘help me, help me’ and grabbing his leg.”
Unbeknownst to Latiolais, he’d stumbled upon a mass shooting in his quiet Houston neighborhood. A gunman opened fire at the Memorial Drive Tire & Auto a little after 10 a.m. Eugene Linscomb, 56, was shot and killed, and six others were injured. The shooter even fired five shots into a police helicopter before being taken down.
Latiolais sprang into action. He asked the man to remove his suit vest and started working on his wounds, all while asking the bystanders to call 9-1-1. But when the teen asked the victim what happened, the man told him: “I’ve been shot.”
“That’s when I realized there were actually two wounds, one where the bullet entered his thigh, and one where it exited,” Latiolais said. His high school history teacher happened to be on the scene and helped him make a tourniquet from a belt to stop blood loss. Latiolais talked to the victim to keep him calm, all skills he learned in six years as a Boy Scout, and through his work as a lifeguard.
His mother, who watched from the car, thought, "God I wish we had a first aid kit in the car," he said.
The rush of adrenaline kept him focused as he went over the steps of administering first aid in his head.
Latiolais said the police arrived first to secure the area. “That’s when I found out it was still an active shooter situation,” he said. The teen told his mother to move into the driver’s seat of the car, in case they would have to flee.
Eventually the fire department took over treatment of the wounded. Once he was loaded up into an ambulance, Latiolais finally said hello to his teacher, and the first responders helped them clean up.
Police have identified the gunman as Dionisio Garza III, a 25-year-old Army veteran from San Bernardino. Family members told Click2Houston that the Afghanistan veteran had grown increasingly paranoid in recent days. "I know he did this, but it wasn't him anymore," his father said. "My son was broken."
As second armed man was initially called a suspect, but was later determined to be a bystander. The gunman kept shooting after killing a man by the auto shop, and some reports indicate a fire at a gas station across the street was caused by his stray bullet.
One woman, Denise Slaughter, was hit five times as she sat in her car. “"They kept shooting at us,” a friend told ABC 13. “Denise had good sense to step on the gas. We got to safety, and saw that her wound was gushing blood."
An audio recording from the Houston Police’s public information officer said they would not have any more information to share on Memorial Day.
Latiolais finally made it to his doctor’s appointment hours later, after the shelter in place order was lifted. And despite his actions, Latiolais said his future doesn’t lie in emergency medicine, but rather engineering. While he was glad to help, he doesn’t think his actions were that extraordinary, and doesn’t consider himself a hero.
“In Boy Scouts they always talk about helping others and serving the community just because that's what you're supposed to do as a citizen,” he said. “I just knew that I could help him so I did.”
This article has been updated throughout.