Gaslamp Shooting Survivor Breaks Silence

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A San Diego man gunned down five people at random in the Gaslamp, according to police.

Detectives said the gun the man used was a homemade, untraceable gun, a so-called ghost gun.

One of the survivors has never talked publicly about what happened. Until now, three months to the day since the shooting.

"So, I was really enjoying my life and looking forward to the next 30 years,” said Steven Ely, a retired schoolteacher. “And then, all of a sudden, this happened."

On the night of April 22, Ely parked his car and walked toward a speakeasy to watch his son's band.

"I came around the corner,” said Ely, "not more than one or two seconds, and all of a sudden I heard bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! A rapid volley of gunshots."

One of those shots struck Ely in the torso. He said he never saw the man who shot him.

"The first ambulance stopped,” Ely said. “They told me, 'You're going to be fine. You're going to be fine.' Gave me something to put me to sleep. Next thing I remember, I woke up in the hospital."

Doctors told Ely the bullet was too risky to remove. Had it hit him an inch in any other direction, he likely wouldn't be able to walk, if he survived at all. But for a long time, Ely felt anything but lucky.

"After being shot, I immediately lost 40 pounds,” Ely said. “I couldn't eat. I was nauseous. I think I was laying in ICU in trauma for 16 days, and I came home I was super weak. I could barely walk and everything tasted like cardboard."

It sounds agonizing for anyone, but especially for a healthy 68-year-old accustomed to surfing every day.

"And there were a couple nights,” Ely said, “there were a couple times, when I was on the ground crying, doubled over in pain, just not wanting to live, not wanting to live anymore, it was so painful. We've all had nausea, but imagine the worst nausea you've had -- that '10' -- and multiply that by four or five. And that was constant, 24-7, for a month."

Even if he was physically able, Ely said he hasn't been mentally ready to talk about the shooting.

"I didn't want to talk about guns,” Ely said. “I couldn't even watch programs on TV that had guns. It made me sick! All I could do was just sit here like this, just in my pain, and stare at the ground and grimace 24 hours a day for almost two months."

Ely wasn’t just in pain. He said he was angry too. First, at himself for walking into gunfire – he had heard the first four shots that killed a valet driver down the street but attributed the sound to construction.

“And then I was mad at ghost guns,” Ely said.

Ely said he isn't anti-gun but that he believes banning ghost guns -- like the 9mm ghost gun police said the suspect used to shoot him -- is just common sense.

“Untraceable ghost guns do not belong on our streets, Ely said.

Ely said federal lawmakers are taking too long to pass enforceable legislation, and if he worries if we wait 5 or 10 more years to close the loophole, it will be too late.

"We really need to put our foot down on it now,” Ely said. “And that's why I get angry."

Thanks to a turnaround procedure last week, Ely said these days he is a lot less angry and a lot more grateful.

"My taste has come back,” Ely said. “And I'm very, very appreciative of being able to sit here and have a smile on my face, and I'm happy. After three months where I just thought it was over, I thought, 'Oh, I'm never going to make it back. I don't want to live like this.' It was that bad."

The man police said shot Ely and four others -- one fatally -- pleaded not guilty in court. Prosecutors say the entire shooting was caught on camera. If convicted, he faces more than 100 years to life in prison.

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