Jonathan Smith will probably never get used to people calling him a hero. Weeks after the reports of his bravery that helped save lives during the the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting went viral, the Buena Park resident is recognized just about everywhere he goes. Dozens of stories were written about the heroism of the 30 year-old copy machine repairman and father of three who went to the festival with his family for his brother’s 43rd birthday and wound up saving a reported 30 lives before getting shot in the neck.
Smith still remembers many of the people he helped to safety who were pinned down by shooter Stephen Paddock’s bullets. Some were too scared to move to safety while others needed help after tripping and falling as they ran for cover. One by one Smith ran to dozens of people to help them get up and escape. Minutes later, he recalls the feeling of taking a bullet that hit him like a Mack truck before he fell to the ground.
“I blacked out for a few seconds,” Smith says. “When I got up I tried to push myself up with both hands and I couldn’t do it. That’s when I realized something was wrong. I couldn’t feel my left arm.” He grabbed his phone and put it in his pocket and suddenly felt a burning sensation on his neck. “I put my hand on it and I could feel the blood rushing down, like a warm fluid, a running faucet, the whole left side of my shirt was completely red,” he says. It was a miracle that he was still able to run to safety and make a phone call to his kid's mother telling her he got shot before running into a police officer who got him to an ambulance.
Nearly a month after the massacre, the trauma of Oct. 1 has left its mark on Smith’s daily life. Aside from his physical injuries and long road to rehabilitation, he says the shooting robbed him of the ability to stand in crowds of people without getting anxiety.
However, one crowd he’s always felt comfortable around is his the group of people he watches football with on Sundays. As an avid Chargers fan and a member of the team’s local Chargers Fan Booster Club, Smith was a fixture at the club's tailgate parties, working the grill and cheering for his favorite NFL team. When the news that Smith was shot at Route 91 reached the rest of his Bolt brethren, they immediately sprang into action.
“First we wanted to make sure he was safe,” says Ed Duran Jr, leader of the booster club. “We conversed with him in the hospital before he went into surgery, we reached out to his job and his family. We knew he was gonna need money so that was one thing we thought as a group we at least could do for him.”
The next step was contacting the Chargers organization to let them know that one of their fans had been shot in the line of bravery helping others escape the deadly massacre. Last week, the team invited Smith to meet with the players, watch a game from the stands with his family, even pull the legendary Chargers cannon.
Tomorrow, as the Chargers prepare to take on the Patriots, Smith will also have a fundraiser in his honor courtesy of Muldoon’s Saloon in North Long Beach which also happens to be a well known Chargers bar. The Chargers Fan Booster Club will host raffle off dozens of prizes, including jerseys, hats, beanies and stickers for all those who come down to buy a drink at the bar. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 50 percent of all the proceeds at the bar will go to Smith and his family to help cover the cost of his medical and living expenses. Already Smith had received a huge outpouring of support from people around the world who have donated over $80,000 to his GoFundMe page as he struggles to recover enough to get back to work and help raise his three children.
The bar’s owner, Patrick Conlon, met Smith at another fundraiser thrown in his honor and invited him and his crew to have a game day party at Muldoon’s. Incidentally, Smith actually used to live near the North Long Beach bar before moving to Buena Park.
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“Jonathan is a huge chargers fan,” Conlon says. “He is a hero but I wanted to do this for him because he lived across the street and he is a big charger fan so the whole thing made sense.”
For Duran Jr., a decorated combat veteran with a Bronze Star, helping Smith through this difficult time isn’t simply an act of charity, it’s a sign of respect for everything that he did on that fateful day.
“Even though I’m a combat veteran I don’t know if I could do what he did without thinking it through...that took a lot of training and a lot of courage...it takes soldiers like myself years to get training like that and he just did it at the drop of a dime. That’s what America’s about.”
For more info on the fundraiser for Smith, visit the Muldoon's Saloon Facebook page.