'Pain like I’d never felt’: 5/3 shooting survivor recalls echoing sounds of gunfire

‘I couldn’t pinpoint where he was,’ says Brian Sarver

Fifth Third Bank shooting victim: ‘I dove down the stairs’

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Brian Sarver said Sept. 6 was a typical morning. He went to work around 8 a.m. and had a meeting in the lobby around 9 a.m. with a couple of contractors. That’s when, he says, everything went crazy.

“I think I was literally the first or the second shot,” he said. “After that I continued to hear lots of gunfire -- and that’s when I was telling you earlier -- I dove, basically like you would dive down a water slide, I dove down the stairs. I went under, pot belly. I knew that something crazy was going on and everybody scattered obviously. But I was pretty much the first one that was hit so I didn’t have really a chance to kind of dive for cover before I got hit.”

Sarver was one of the victims of the Sept. 6 shootings at Fifth Third Center on Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati. Gunman Omar Enrique Santa Perez, 29, opened fire in the building’s lobby and managed to fire 35 rounds before Cincinnati police responded within minutes and fatally shot him.

Perez killed two contractors and a bank employee, Pruthvi Raj Kandepi, 25, Richard Newcomer, 64, and Luis Felipe Calderón, 48. He also wounded two bank employees, including Whitney and Sarver. Police say Perez could have killed many more -- his briefcase held more than 250 rounds of extra ammunition.

“Because the lobby, we’re in an area with a lot of loud echoing so the sound was just kind of crazy around me," said Sarver. “I couldn’t pinpoint where he was so I kind of thought he was in front of me, which was why I dove down the stairs. He was actually standing kind of right behind me.”

Sarver said it ended pretty quickly.

“The person that was helping me said, ‘You’re going to be OK, you’re doing great,’ and I kind of thought, well, he’s just saying that,” said Sarver.

He was hit in the lower back, and the bullet went completely through out to the front of his body.

“I don’t really recall feeling it until I was on the dock floor,” he said. “And then I was definitely feeling it, like, ‘Oh wow.' I felt pain like I’d never felt before."

Fifth Third shooting survivor speaks

After spending five days in the hospital, Sarver is now recovering at home. He is a husband and father to an 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old twin boys. He and his wife Lisa will celebrate 18 years of marriage next month.

“I was just basically praying,” he said. “Obviously, I don’t want to die like this. I have a wife, I have young children at home.”

His wife said she texted him several times the morning of the shooting, even called him once, but didn’t get an answer. She said she tried to stay calm, pray, and think positive.

There has been plenty of support from the community, the family says, especially in Lebanon.

“Even my football team, at church, just everybody has given me a lot of support, a lot of prayers,” he said. “I’m very thankful for that.”

Sarver said he isn’t going to live in fear -- he plans to go back to the lobby and make peace with it the best he can.

“I’m just very grateful that I’m one of the two that survived,” he said. “I think God is in control and I don’t know all the reasons why, but I’m here and I’m trying to make the most of it.”

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