Police officers ran through the Gaslamp District the night of April 22, responding to calls of an active shooter. A gunman had just shot and killed a valet worker and hurt 4 others in downtown San Diego, including a New Jersey man, visiting from out of town.
“It's incredible to be standing and alive and to meet so many great people,” Vincent “Vinny” Gazzani said. The 27-year-old is grateful to still be alive.
Gazzani and three friends were on vacation, visiting from New Jersey.
“We were all just, you know, trying to live the San Diego lifestyle; golf, surfing, hiking,” Gazzani said.
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On their first night in town, their lives were changed forever.
“Was shot once in the arm here through the tricep, into the forearm, and then once in the back into the chest,” Gazzani said.
Around 10:30 p.m., the friends had just eaten at Gaslamp Pizza and were heading back to the Hilton San Diego Bayfront to get a good night sleep for an early tee time the next morning.
Gazzani said he didn’t hear the first shots about a block away that killed valet Justice Bouldin. Police said the shooter used a ghost gun during the random attack.
“It was a narrow sidewalk where we kind of are trying to pass him. He screamed, ‘everyone get out of the way,’ so we did,” Gazzani said. “That's when he turned around and started, you know, firing into the crowd and unfortunately, I took two of the bullets and my friend got hit in the arm. another friend of mine; bullet luckily grazed him, but we're all lucky to be alive.”
Gazzani believes he is alive because of Dvir Benesh and Shai Gino. The two Israeli Defense Force veterans – both trained in first aid – helped Gazzani after he was shot.
“They raised my arm, they put pressure on the, you know, the wounds,” Gazzani said. “They were saying, you know, 'You have to fight, you have to stay awake.'"
Gazzani was in the hospital for a week and because of a collapsed lung, he could not fly home. So, his parents drove him cross-country back to New Jersey in an RV.
“I have some good pictures and, you know, I’m very grateful for that as well,” Gazzani said. “I didn't make my morning tee time, but I was able to see the country.”
Gazzani said this tragedy has made him more grateful for life and the people who helped him survive.
“I also want to thank all the great people of the UCSD hospital, the nurses, the doctors the trauma doctors, surgeons; I can't thank enough,” Gazzani said. “I’m eternally grateful.”
Gazzani plans to return to San Diego for another trip and to visit the men he now considers his brothers.
He also wants to focus on the memory of Justice Boldin who was killed in the shooting. Gazzani will likely be a prosecution witness if the case goes to trial.
The suspect, Travis Sarreshteh, a 32-year-old downtown San Diego resident, has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder and four counts of attempted murder.