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Dan Bilzerian recounts frantic search for gun, help during Vegas shooting
Dan Bilzerian, the millionaire professional poker player whose playboy exploits and philanthropy made him a massive social media star, owns an arsenal of guns that would be the envy of any Second Amendment champion.
But on Sunday night he found himself weaponless as a barrage of bullets rained down upon him and fellow concertgoers in Las Vegas near the end of a country music performance by Jason Aldean.
Bilzerian, who has been a sworn commissioned reserve police officer for the last five years, was captured on video running as gunfire erupted overhead, sprinting first toward a parked police truck and then to a cement barrier directly facing the hotel where the gunman was located.
It was the first actions Bilzerian took after he fled his position on the concert stage with country singer Jake Owen, a longtime friend since Little League.
"All I wanted to do was get my hands on a gun and shoot the mother f----- shooting at me," Bilzerian told The Hill in an interview recounting the harrowing minutes during which he fled the stage and went looking for a weapon.
Bilzerian said he first ran from the stage toward a police truck parked nearby as concertgoers scrambled for cover and bullets rang out overhead.
"I was trying to get the shotgun, but I couldn't get it out," he recalled.
Cellphone video footage recorded by a friend shows Bilzerian rummaging through the police truck looking for a weapon as the sound of automatic gunfire relentlessly cracked nearby.
Unable to get the gun, Bilzerian went toward a group of people yelling for help, and he saw a young woman whose face was covered in blood. He told her friends to bring her to the police vehicle.
"Her brain was outside her head. That image will be forever burned into my memory," he said.
While running towards the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Bilzerian said he recorded a quick video to let people know what was happening amid the chaos. He posted it to Instagram within seconds.
"This girl just got shot in the f------ head," he can be heard saying while running.
Bilzerian said he posted the clip at that moment because he wanted people to know what was going on was a real mass shooting and not some faux hysteria.
"Everybody needed to know you had to get the f--- out of there," he said.
As he was running for a different cover location, Bilzerian said he decided to reverse course and run back toward the police truck near where the young woman was shot to see if he could find the keys.
"If I could find them in the door or on the seat. I was going to steal it and drag her into the car and drive her towards help but there was nothing. Someone had taken the keys," he recalled.
"We stayed there and then after a few seconds we decided we had to get out of there," he added.
Bilzerian said he decided to run toward the gunfire where he saw other police squad cars, hoping to secure a weapon.
"The only thing on my mind was, I need to get a gun, I thought there were multiple shooters walking around gunning people down and I wanted to kill them."
The cellphone footage shot by a friend shows him eventually getting within a couple hundred yards of the hotel before crouching down in front of a cement barrier.
A uniformed policeman joined him behind the cement barrier. As a reserve police officer, Bilzerian showed the other officer his badge.
"I showed him my badge and creds and asked if I could have one of his guns. He had a pistol and a long gun. The police officer wouldn't give me his pistol, I can't blame him, but I didn't want to be in this situation and not be able to do anything, so I had to ask," Bilzerian said.
Bilzerian kept moving along the street near the hotel when a van drove up next to him. The driver recognized the social media celebrity and invited him to get in.
"He yelled my name, must have recognized who I was, and told me to get in," Bilzerian recalled.
Once inside, he realized the driver had picked up two wounded concertgoers.
"He took them to the hospital, and then the guy took me to my house to get my gun," he said.
Bilzerian said while he was driving in the van he was on the phone asking the police department where he is commissioned as a reserve officer how he could help.
"I was on the phone with my police chief who advised against returning with a weapon as I would probably be shot by the police. He also said his niece was pinned down and asked me to go get her. He dropped me a pin of her location," Bilzerian said.
"I went home, put on pants and immediately headed back with just a pistol in my side pocket. Once I parked outside where it was now barricaded off, I ran two miles to the concert area and there were bodies everywhere, it was really terrible."
Bilzerian said the chief's daughter had managed by that time to move to a safe zone, saying, "I linked up with some first responders and headed toward the New York, New York hotel as that was where they said there was another shooter active."
After the scene calmed about three hours later, he went home to plan how he might help with philanthropy.
Bilzerian, the son of a wealthy businessman and himself a millionaire entrepreneur, has worked to use his celebrity and resources for many causes over the past decade.
The social media star has taken amputee veterans on trips to Cabo, to a ranch in Wyoming, night clubs in and out of the country and to parties at his home in the Hollywood Hills.
Bilzerian said he had just returned to Nevada after volunteering in Texas for a week of hurricane relief when the shooting took place Sunday night, leaving 58 people dead and hundreds more injured.
Upon waking up, Bilzerian said he went to donate blood, but there was so much support in Las Vegas that the lines lasted for 6 hours. Instead, he said he went to Sam's Club, bought 8,000 pounds of water and food and took it to the distribution center in a military transport vehicle he owns. Then he spent the rest of the night delivering hot food to hospitals.
Bilzerian says when he returned home, he checked his social media accounts and was shocked by some of the responses.
Some people had taken the clip of him running from the police truck after the woman was shot and suggested he was a coward who ran from harm's way rather than tend to the wounded woman.
For the last few days, Bilzerian said he has stewed about the insinuations. Footage emerged Thursday, however, showing Bilzerian looking for the gun and running toward the gunfire with officers.
On Thursday, he agreed to an interview with The Hill to describe his actions during the shooting, showing a reporter six minutes of cellphone footage that chronicled his activities.
Asked why he didn't stay with the wounded woman, he responded, "When I couldn't get the gun or the keys - I'm not a medic. What I know how to do is shoot, so I wanted to get a gun and shoot the mother f----- responsible for this.
He said the episode hadn't changed any of his thoughts on gun rights.
"This is a situation where having my guns wouldn't have helped me because the shooter was up so high. But at first I thought it was multiple shooters going around Columbine-style gunning people down, so you do what your instinct is. Mine was to get a gun," he said.