It was a night in the Gaslamp quarter that Vinny Gazzani will never forget.
“It was like a horror movie,” Gazzani said. “Your life flash behind your eyes, and you're thinking of everything at once.”
After getting some pizza, Gazzani was walking back to his hotel with friends when shots were fired. The next thing he knew, Gazzani was fighting for his life.
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“I was in really, really bad shape where, you know, I could have potentially passed,” Gazzani said.
Gazzani said he wouldn’t be here today to tell his story were it not for two strangers.
Dvir Benesh and Shai Gino are childhood friends who both served in the Israeli Defense Forces. Now, they run a construction company in Kearny Mesa.
On the night of the shooting, Benesh, who is a part-time DJ, had just finished a set at the Pendry San Diego hotel's Pool House rooftop bar. Around 10:30 p.m., Benesh and Gino were walking back to their car and stopped to pick up pizza at the same place Gizzani and his friends had just eaten.
They heard the first shots a block away, then the gunman walked past them.
“He just yells something like, ‘Get out of my way,’ " Gino said. "And they got out of his way and he apparently just turned around and started shooting at them."
“Vinny reached out to us and said he got shot,” Benesh said. “This was the time we realized it's all real.”
The former soldiers’ first-aid training kicked in.
“He got a shot in his chest right underneath his heart,” Gino said. “I just wrapped a towel around his [arm], and I stopped the veins in order to stop the bleeding through, through the hand. And another towel, I put it on his chest.”
Benesh put pressure on Gizzani’s back, and the friends focused on keeping Gizzani calm and conscious.
“The first couple of minutes are the most critical, because you can get in panic, you can get trauma," Gino said. "And when it happens, the blood just running faster. We always made sure that he's with us to make sure that he's alive. Because if he's closing his eyes, that's not a good sign.”
Benesh and Gino kept Gizzani conscious until an EMT arrived. They said a few people gave them clean towels for Gizzani’s wounds, but they were frustrated by the lack of empathy from others.
“If we weren't there, I don't know if there [are] other people that [know] to do exactly what we did,” Gino said. “Other people tried to take videos of the event instead of helping, which was a little frustrating."
Gizzani said the men are heroes for doing all they could to save him.
“This is something that I can never forget," Gina said. "It's going to go with me for the rest of my life. And we're talking on a daily basis. And he's my brother, definitely."
In fact, Benesh and Gino are planning a trip to New Jersey to visit Gizzani and his family.