I’m not a hero, says American serviceman who rushed to the aid of Bury St Edmunds shooting victim
- Credit: Archant
A humble hero who rushed to save a man shot in the stomach outside his home in Bury St Edmunds has spoken for the first time about the ordeal.
Senior airman Aaron Thomas, 23, who serves in the US Air Force at RAF Lakenheath, has been awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for his actions on August 4.
Not comfortable with the “hero” tag, he told the EADT yesterday: “I like to think I was just helping a guy out”.
SrA Thomas was at his home in Forum Court, off Station Hill, playing video games when he heard the man screaming.
“At first I thought it was fake,” he said. “But he kept screaming. I looked out the window and saw the blood.”
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He then grabbed a towel and rushed to the scene to help stop the bleeding.
“I got outside and he was just walking around screaming and holding his stomach,” SrA Thomas said.
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“I got him to lay down and used the towel to apply pressure to the wound and stop the bleeding.”
He said his USAF first-aid training kicked in, but dealing with gunshot wounds is not part of his everyday job.
“I work in the contracting,” he explained. “I buy stuff for the base – but we all get Self-Aid Buddy Care training.”
Describing the incident, he admitted that it took a while for the shock of what had happened to sink in.
He said: “He seemed pretty alert considering he had just been shot. He was in a lot of pain and I didn’t know if he was going to make it.”
He described blood “pouring out” of the man, but with his training he kept calm, telling the victim “you are going to be alright buddy”.
Hawaii-born SrA Thomas, who did not hear the gunshot, was quickly joined by other people who helped to keep the man alive.
“It happened so fast,” he said. “It wasn’t until I got back to my house that I started to freak out just a little bit. The worst part was him saying he didn’t want to die.
Shying away from the word hero, he said: “A lot of people have been calling me hero, but I like to think I was just helping a guy out who needed it.
“I don’t want people thinking I saved his life or that I’m a hero. The cops got there really quickly and the paramedics soon after them. They saved his life. I don’t want credit for something they did.”
His boss, technical sergeant Eric Schaffstein, said SrA Thomas was never one to shout about his achievements.
“He’s not the loud and proud guy,” Sgt Schaffstein said. “He’s the guy who knows what’s going on and is really doing his job without waving flags and calling attention to himself.
“Something like this highlights his character. This shows a situation that could’ve been dangerous and he stepped up and just did what needed to be done.”
Despite the incident happening only five months after SrA Thomas, who works on the base as a contracting specialist, moved to Bury, he has not been put off living in the town.
“It is a great town – I really like it here,” he said. “This is my first time in England, I was in Alaska before and I am from Hawaii.”
Thomas was presented with the Air Force Commendation Medal by 48th Fighter Wing Commander Colonel Robert Novotny on Tuesday for his act of courage.
The man survived after he was taken to hospital for treatment.
Police have charged five people in connection with the shooting as part of an ongoing investigation.